Beginners Guide to Exotica, Fake Tales from Hawaii.
The Beginners Guide is a series of playlists which are designed to introduce the listener to the key works and artists within a musical genre. Following on from the Beginners Guide to Dub we now travel north to Hawaii and explore the sounds of Exotica.
Exotica was a musical genre born out of the optimism of post-war America. Many of the veterans had returned to America from far flung locations around the world and found themselves drawn to tales of paradise islands. Exotica music provided them with a taste of the exotica within a familiar rhythm. Exotica artists did not actually copy or recreate the sounds of the islands, they simply dreamed up sounds that they fought people could relate to when thinking of these beautiful and dangerous exotic locations.
The music was largely produced in the late 1950's and early 1960's and generally had sweeping orchestral strings alongside, exotic animal sound effects, bongo's and other interesting instruments from around the world. They rarely contained vocals and usually had a relaxed sound, which eventually lead it to be labelled Lounge music alongside Bossa Nova and many others.
Exotica had a number of sub-genres including Tiki and Jungle. Tiki was mainly based on representing the sounds of Hawaii and the Polynesian islands; it usually featured slide guitars and the sound of waves. Jungle tried to replicate the sounds of the rain forests and often used Bongo's, tribal chanting and monkey / bird sounds.
Les Baxter is often credited with inventing the genre with his hit record Ritual of the Savage in 1957. Following him were many other artists including Martin Denny, Ted Auletta, Arthur Lyman and eventually the genre gathered so much attention that Elvis Presley even got on board the bandwagon.
Exotica in one sense could be described as the first post-modern and globalised musical genre. This fusion of many different styles and instruments is commonplace today, but back in the 1950's it was unheard of. Exotica's influence over the years has made a lasting impression. It influence can be felt in Hollywood blockbuster films, in the Surf music of the Beach Boys, in the Balearic house music of Ibiza and in the Lounge music of Paris.
Exotica music today is relatively unheard of but it deserves its place in the history of modern music!