A. Panda’s Exotica Lounge

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So, here we go again, back to A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge for another music mix. This time I’m shooting for a compilation of Exotica and Lounge tunes, many of which I’ve only recently discovered. A lot of these songs are from the heyday of this style of music, the 1950s and 1960s. Many more are by modern-day artists who either revisited old chestnuts or created something new. All of them should fill you with a sense of escape, which is what we’re all about here in the Tiki Lounge.

Now, I’m not an artist or musician, though I really appreciate both. Where I flex my creative muscles is in writing and compiling. That’s why I enjoy this blog, and that’s why I also enjoy making music mixes. It really is an art form, mixing up other peoples’ work into something completely new.

For this particular musical collection, I have Dawn Frasier to thank for the inspiration. Dawn is an amazingly talented artist in Seattle who created the painting that is the cover of this mix. The original artwork is now hanging behind the bar in the Tiki Lounge. I also want to acknowledge some wonderful musicians who are Tiki friends of mine and landed in this mix: Jay Brooks of Clouseaux, Tony Marsico of The Martini Kings, Michael Bridoux of The Left Arm of Buddha, John Bartley of Five-Eaux, Mark Fontana of The Blue Hawaiians, Jim Bacchi of The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Brother Cleve of Combustible Edison, Russell Mofsky of Gold Dust Lounge, and all of the other musicians who made Exotica and Lounge music the treasure that we enjoy today. I hope you enjoy listening to this mix as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you. Aloha!

Here’s the playlist in case you want to see what’s in this mix:

A Panda's Exotica Lounge Playlist

And here’s the link to listen to this playlist on 8tracks:

Paradise Lost?

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So, I just finished reading a book about Paul Gaugin called Gaugin: Tahiti. Now I’m not much of an art fan, other than my love of modern Tiki artists (see Tiki Ohana – Artists ,  Tiki Ohana – Artists, Part Deux) and Edward Hopper (see Edward Hopper). I know enough to be dangerous about old-school artists. I never really knew anything about Paul Gaugin and had certainly never seen any of his artwork. When I found out he left France to pursue his late career in French Polynesia, I was intrigued, so I read his story.

Apparently, Gaugin left France because he was disgusted with the traditional art scene, culture and politics in his mother country. He hoped to find a more primitive lifestyle in Tahiti to transform his art. He also had a lust for young ladies, which he partook of in abundance in Tahiti, much to the detriment of his reputation. Many believe it took many years after his death for Gaugin’s art genius to be acknowledged in France because of his horrible character and his outspoken criticism of the French establishment. But that’s another story.

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Gaugin leaves France for French Polynesia in search of a more primitive lifestyle, an escape, if you will. Here’s why I was drawn to this story: it reminds me of Tiki escapism in Mid-Century America and it’s revival today. Gaugin was looking to surround himself with the natural beauty and color of Tahiti to reinvigorate his art. Isn’t that what Tiki does for us now, in a way? We seek an escape through music, art, libations and all things Polynesian, both authentic and faux, to get us to a better place.

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Unfortunately, when Gaugin first arrived in Tahiti in 1891, he was disillusioned by what he found. The French government had beaten him there by at least 50 years, and the colonizers and missionaries did a great deal to subjugate and evangelize the local population. What Gaugin had hoped to find, a primitive culture and people, had become a lot like what he was trying to escape in France. His behavior, both regarding his disdain of the local government and appetite for Tahitian girls, put Gaugin at odds with the Tahitian authorities. Some escape!

Tiki’s original downfall in the late 1960s had a similar story. This so-called “escape” was decried by the hippie generation as a completely artificial and unnatural world. There was some truth to this narrative. Original Tiki did borrow from Polynesian culture in a very loose sense, which some people then (and even to this day) saw as an exploitation of these native lands. Was it wrong or disrespectful to appropriate sacred carved Tikis as gods for a new culture of escapism?

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For Gaugin, his desire to get back to a more primitive state of nature had a noble cause: to improve his art. It’s sad that his own baggage dragged him down, and the colonization of Tahiti demoralized him even further. Gaugin was only human, after all, and human nature in both his own case and the French occupiers of this Polynesian paradise ultimately defeated his ideal. Broken, both emotionally and physically (years of STDs had taken a toll on his body), Gaugin relocated to the more remote Marquesan island of Hiva Oa in 1901 before passing away there in 1903.

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The revival of Tiki culture beginning at the turn of the 21st Century also had a noble cause: the rediscovery of a lost culture in its purest form. Yes, Tiki culture is as much artifice as it is art, but we current Tiki enthusiasts don’t make excuses for this or pretend this escape is something more than just that: an escape. In addition, the broad scope of Tiki culture can lead (and has led for me) to a much deeper dive into its various elements. The differences in Tiki carving styles among the different Polynesian islands. The origin of Tiki drinks from humble beginnings in the Caribbean to exotic cocktails painstakingly crafted by expert mixologists. The architecture and design of lush Tiki temples all over the world.

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Again, there is no need to make any excuses for enjoying the Tiki lifestyle. When I was troubled recently by a video mocking the American occupation of the Hawai’ian islands, my friend George Jenkins responded: “Good luck finding a square inch of this planet that doesn’t have some nasty history associated with it.” Truth. We humans have a nasty habit of fucking up our world through our greed and lust for power. But we can still be positive about Tiki and our brand of escapism, as long as we are respectful of others. Added my friend Scott Deeter: “Hawaii has a very complicated history for sure, Andy. But there is amazing beauty in both the land and the culture there. Don’t be an ugly tourist–just like visiting anywhere.” Wise words from my fellow Tiki enthusiasts.

So, while your enjoying a Mai-Tai, think about all of those who came before us in this escape we call Tiki. Paul Gaugin would be happy to join us there!

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Panda’s Tribute: 1965

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1965. It was a very good year. I wrote about this a few years ago as I was just about to turn 50 (It Was A Very Good Year). Ten years prior, for my 40th birthday, I put together a compilation of music popular in that important year. Now, I’m sharing that playlist with all of you who weren’t at my 40th birthday party. I hope you enjoy it.

Here’s the playlist:

Panda's 40th Tribute CD

You can listen to this playlist here:

Panda’s In Love – Songs for Jess

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Jessica Montero is my wife. My ladyfriend. My lover. My best friend. My confidante. My soulmate.

When I met Jess, she was the beautiful chick in the short skirt and long jacket. She hasn’t changed much in the 16 years I’ve known her. Today is her birthday. She’s a little older than 21, but she still gets carded. A lot.

I put this music compilation together for her, and now the whole world can know how I feel about her. Here you go.

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You can hear this musical love letter for yourself here:

A. Panda’s Christmas Lounge

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Back in 2011, I decided to make my 3rd Christmas playlist. This one was inspired by the music I enjoy listening to in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. This is a mix of classic and contemporary lounge crooners, jazzy numbers, surf and Tiki tunes, and some straight-up Christmas classics. Throw in some cool SHAG art and a cup of egg nog and you’re ready to enjoy the holidays in Mid-Century Modern style!

I also decided to turn this into a podcast, which you can check out here: apandatikipod.podbean.com

Here’s the back of the CD case with the track listing.

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You can also listen to the playlist on my web radio:

Moana

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I had a feeling about this movie. We’ve known for over 2 years that Disney was working on a new, animated, feature-length film with a Polynesian theme. This was good news, as Disney has been a strong player in the Tiki ohana (see Keeping The Tiki Torch Lit).

The last 2 years have been filled with anticipation as the Disney marketing machine built up to the eventual release of Moana this Thanksgiving weekend. There were news releases when they picked the cast. There were previews, which we Tiki geeks faithfully promoted on our Facebook pages. There was the merchandise, which in typical Disney fashion, was available months before the movie came out. There was even a special pre-release event at our local Disney store, which I happily attended with a bunch of small children, not embarrassed at all to join in the fun. I soaked it all up!

So, of course I went to see Moana as soon as it was released, on Wednesday November 23rd. Thanksgiving eve. My wife, son and I donned our 3D glasses as we found our seats in the surprisingly uncrowded theatre. I had to post the event as a check-in on my Facebook page, because, well, this was a big deal. To me.


Now, for full disclosure, we don’t go out to the movies much. I usually prefer to wait for a movie to come out on DVD or Blu-Ray and watch it from the comfort of home. But this was different. I needed to experience Moana on a big movie screen, in 3D, with full theatre sound. I was not disappointed. I love this movie. A lot.

Moana was transformational for me. I’ll leave the reviewing for others (here’s a good one if you’re interested: #PopCulturePundit), but let me just say this was one amazing movie! I found myself getting choked up as the movie ended, with full-blown tears streaming down my cheeks. It’s a little embarrassing to have my 11-year old son see my crying, but I couldn’t help myself, it was very emotional. There was a happy ending, of course, but the message this movie sends you is much more than that.

Moana is a strong female character I would be proud for my daughters to emulate. She’s headstrong for sure, but respects her elders and loves nature. Moana’ attraction to the sea is central to the movie, and her rediscovery of her Polynesian ancestors’ wayfinding skills is key to resolving the plot of the movie.


After I watched this movie for the first time, I rediscovered a modern-day, real-life voyage I had only casually followed previously: the Mālama Honua worldwide voyage of Hōkūle’a. I was originally attracted to the story of this group of explorers because of my love of all things Polynesian, and I followed them on Facebook without really understanding what they were all about. After seeing Moana, I felt inspired to understand Mālama Honua in more depth, and my eyes were really opened. Their mission is to sail the world and find examples of people helping each other and the environment, with the common thread being the ocean that connects us all. What a beautiful idea, come to life! I had to support and share this message with my Facebook family. I hope you will check it out too.


So, apparently art does imitate life. Moana, as it turns out, is based on some actual Polynesian legends, and is pretty faithful to the stories of Polynesian people. Disney has crafted a masterpiece with this movie, and if it could raise the environmental consciousness of at least one person, than it has told a wonderful story indeed. I’ve already gone to see it again, this time with my mother-in-law. It was her turn to see me cry. Oh, well, I’m not ashamed to show my joy and love for Moana. Go see this movie.

Tiki Ohana – Authors

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So, as I review my blog series on the Tiki ohana from last year, and after I updated the Artists list with a Part Deux, I realize there’s a new category I need to acknowledge: Authors. I’ve touched on Tiki books in some of my past posts, e.g. Thor Heyerdahl’s landmark Kon-Tiki (Tiki 101and Sven Kirsten’s seminal work, The Book of Tiki (Tiki Ohana – Builders). I’ve also hinted at several other people who were working on new books. Well, over the past few years, we’ve seen some pretty amazing new books published by the Tiki ohana. Please consider the following books as must-haves to start or expand your collection of Tiki literature.

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry: Potions of the Caribbean. Beachbum Berry is the single most important figure in the revival of the Tiki cocktail (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails). His work in researching the origins of Tiki drinks led him to discover that most of them were actually recipes from bars throughout the Caribbean, borrowed and repackaged by Don The Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the 1930s-50s. Bum’s book traces the history of rum going back to 1492, and expertly intertwines world history with the rise and fall and rebirth of rum as the important spirit it is. Potions of the Caribbean also includes a boatload of recipes for rum drinks throughout history, many of which were resurrected by Beachbum Berry himself via interviews with the bartenders who would have otherwise taken these once-secret recipes to their graves. If you’re a fan of history and Tiki, you must read this book. I don’t say this often, but I couldn’t put it down. Mahalo, Bum, okole maluna!

Sven Kirsten: Tiki Pop. What else can I say about Sven Kirsten? He is the undisputed king of the Tiki revival. Sven has published multiple books to this point, but here is something new. Tiki Pop is the companion volume to an exhibition he curated in 2014 at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris: Tiki Pop, L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien. My first thought was that it would be tough to build upon The Book of Tiki. I was wrong. By tailoring his message to an international audience, Sven Kirsten was able to expand upon his original masterpiece with an entirely new perspective on what drove the rise of Tiki culture in America. It works. Merci, Sven.

Martin and Rebecca Cate: Smuggler’s Cove. I just finished reading this book, and all I can say is: wow! Martin Cate is the proprietor of a Tiki bar in the SF Bay Area by the same name (Tiki Ohana – Cocktails), but Smuggler’s Cove the book is more than just an homage to the bar. Martin and Rebecca Cate have given us a how-to instruction manual on immersing yourself in the world of Tiki. This book chronicles their journey, but it does so much more. Here we have a thorough history of rum, it’s production methods, and numerous recipes with tips on how to select the proper rums and mixers. Martin and Rebecca have also educated us on how to throw a Tiki party, what the most important Tiki drinks are and how to make them, where to find the best Tiki temples in America (including Smuggler’s Cove) and how they were created. This book has quickly become my indispensable reference for the Tiki lifestyle. Ho’omaika’i ‘ana and well done, Mr. and Mrs. Cate!

Tim “Swanky” Glazner: Mai-Kai – History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant. Here is the newest book to arrive in the Tiki Lounge, hot off the presses this Summer. Tim Glazner was the cofounder of The Hukilau and was instrumental in making The Mai-Kai the focal point of this annual celebration. His love of this greatest Tiki temple of them all is illustrated in his beautiful new book, which tells the early history of how two brothers from Chicago moved to Florida and brought their vast Tiki knowledge with them. Tim used his access to The Mai-Kai and its owners to paint a picture of an amazing place, including beautiful pictures, intriguing characters, and a reverence shared by the Tiki ohana around the world. If you’ve never been to The Mai-Kai, you must go. My first visit was a Tiki epiphany (Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai). If you can’t physically go, Tim Glazner’s book will take you there in spirit. Mahalo, Swanky!