Galaxy of Sound

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Nothing defines A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge quite like music. Specifically, the music that became popular during the Mid-Century Modern era in America, which roughly correlates to the Baby Boomer period of 1946-64. However, the correlation begins and ends there! The wonderful music that Baby Boomers neglected, this Gen-Xer celebrates, along with the rest of my Tiki ohana. This is the soundtrack to our lifestyle.

A picture’s worth 1,000 words, so you can see for yourself the 5 musical genres that comprise my Galaxy of Sound. I plan to go into depth for each one in future posts, so for now, let’s just play a little word association, shall we? I will list each style followed by the name of the artist who created/defined that style, followed by a modern artist who revived/thrives in it. Let’s start with the center of my galaxy.

Space-Age Bachelor Pad. Esquivel. Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica.

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Exotica. Martin Denny. The Left Arm of Buddha.

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Lounge. The Rat Pack. Martini Kings.

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Surf. Dick Dale. Los Straitjackets.

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Hawaiian. Don Ho. King Kukulele

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These are just my opinions of the pioneers and standard bearers for each of these 5 musical styles. You may have a different opinion on the king of the surf guitar, and I’d love to hear it! The wonderful thing about Tiki music is its diversity, and even more amazing is how many artists are performing it all across the country and around the world. I’ve enjoyed getting to know more musicians over the years, some as recently as two weeks ago at The Hukilau. I look forward to introducing you to many of these performers in my coming posts. First up will be surf music. Cowabunga!

Aloha Spirit Ramblings

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What is Aloha Spirit? What is it about Tiki that has captured my attention for the past 10 years? Have my travels during this time frame, to places like New Orleans, Jamaica, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Chicago, Los Angeles, all been cosmically connected somehow? What does the word Mahalo really mean?

Okay, let’s start with an easy one. Mahalo is a Hawai’ian word that has come to mean, simply, “thank you.” I saw evidence of this going back to the original Hawaii Five-0 television series, which I’ve been watching the first season of lately on DVD, where Chin Ho and Kono would toss out mahalo like candy, I guess to make them seem more authentically Hawai’ian. I don’t think they really needed to do that, but I guess the screenwriters weren’t convinced we’d believe it unless they talked the talk. As if “Zulu as Kono” in the opening credits wasn’t convincing enough!

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I’ve looked into the etymology of the word mahalo and found a much more meaningful definition. Mahalo literally means “may you be in divine wind,” which to me is the same as saying “may the Holy Spirit be with you.” Hawai’ians say mahalo as a blessing or a one-word prayer, which I think is really powerful. You must be careful not to cheapen the word by using it without truly meaning it as a blessing. Mahalo must be experienced more so than spoken. Easy, right?

So, back to this aloha spirit stuff. What does it mean? To me, it seems simple: aloha spirit is the feeling inside you that is constantly grateful for everything, that keeps you happy when things aren’t so great, that gives you grace during times of stress, that puts a song in your heart and the spring in your step. Hawai’ians have it. Tom Brady has it. I have it, most of the time. Jesus really had it and tried to teach it to all of us: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). That’s what aloha spirit is all about, Charlie Brown.

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So, since we’ve given props to Jesus, let’s give Buddha his due and talk about karma. This one’s a little tougher to explain, since I’m not a Buddhist, nor do I play one on TV, nor have I read or learned much about Buddhism in my few years on Earth. What is karma? I know some people say it’s a cause-and-effect thing, you know, you get what you deserve, he had it coming, blah blah blah. I think it’s more complicated than that.

To me, karma is more a sense than action. It’s a feeling you get that you’ve been someplace before, it’s worlds colliding in some strange mashup of life’s pursuits, it’s coincidences that just seem too good to be true. I don’t believe in fate. I do believe in tempting fate. What I mean by that is we make our own fate. People say they’d rather be lucky than good, but I say be good enough to make your own luck. Karma is an attitude.

I was born in 1965. This was an interesting time in America: Tiki culture was nearing the end of its first good run; space-age bachelor pad music had peaked as well, swept away by the British Invasion and soon enough, the Woodstock era; the Mad Men sensibility of conspicuous consumption would be pushed aside in favor of the minimalist ethos of the Hippie and drug culture. The Baby Boomers of my parents’ generation changed the world, and not for the better, in my opinion. It was my fate to grow up in a world where the Hippies were running the show. It was my karma to revert to the culture from the year of my birth, albeit some 40 years later.

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So I believe karma introduced me to Tiki. I’ve seen many signs in my travels that have confirmed this for me. I’ll share some examples in my next few posts. Mahalo!