Exotica jazz is no longer well-known to the average joe. It’s a genre of jazz that is based on exotic locales and sounds that emerged after WWII, predominately within the span of the 1950s to mid-1960s. The music was influenced heavily by Asian, tropical islands, South American, and African sounds, whether native beats or sounds of nature. Many men and women musicians emerged after the war bringing with them new sounds for jazz that uniquely set them apart from pre-WWII jazz.
Amid the boomerangs, starbursts, and sleek designs of midcentury modern living lies a smaller off-shoot of design that’s been refered to as “Primitive Modern”. This is a dark, mysterious world of design filled with exotic influences from Hawaii, Alaska, Africa, Asia, and even from past cultures. Its a mixture of primitivism and modern art. The most popular style of primitive modern has its own sub-category called “Tiki Modern”. Its made up of tikis, Hawaiian influences, Polynesian influences, luaus, and exotica jazz music. While many undertones of exotica were aimed more for adults, it didn’t stop Disney from creating The Enchanted Tiki Room attraction.
Primitive modern is important in the world of modern design because it fills a particular niche. Many vintage-lifers, a term I’ve coined for those who live a vintage life, like to have at least one room that has a theme to it. It might be a room with a wild jungle theme or a tiki/Hawaiian theme or even a caveman theme. Primative Modern and Exotica Jazz allowed the average American to enjoy a sort of idealized sense of exotic locations and new cultures.
The following is a great introduction to exotica jazz. You will hear new instruments, in comparison to earlier jazz, such as bongos and gongs. You will also hear some vocals that have amazing range and some that encompass that exotica sound. You will also hear nature sounds such as frogs and crickets. These popular musicians will guide you on the path to appreciating the swanky hep sounds of exotica jazz.
You can always swing over to my friend's online radio show, Koop Kooper's Cocktail Nation, to hear more!
1. “Babalu” by Yma Sumac
2. “Bo Mambo” by Yma Sumac
3. “Taboo” by Les Baxter
4. “Voodoo Dreams” by Les Baxter
5. “Forbidden Island” by Martin Denny
6. “On A Little Street In Singapore” by Martin Denny
7. “Bahia” by Arthur Lyman
8. “Hiilawe” by Arthur Lyman
9. “Goofy Peepl of Phobos” by Russ Garcia
10. “Mambo #5” by Perez Prado
11. “Zelda’s Theme” by Perez Prado
12. “The Enchanted Tiki Room Song” from Disneyland
13. “Bali Ha’i” by Tak Shindo
14. “Isle of Love” by Carmen
15. “Caravan” by Jack Costanzo and His Afro Cuban Band