Friday, October 3, 2003



Don Tiki

In the half-century since he created a unique blend of jazz, pop, third world percussion instruments, and jungle noises -- dubbed "exotica" -- at Kaiser's Hawaiian Village and the International Market Place, Martin Denny has been elevated to mythic status by modern fans of "tiki culture" and "lounge music."


Don Tiki's tribute to the exotic sounds of Martin Denny

Where: Hawaii Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Tickets: $22 to $36
Call: 528-0506

Denny's presence makes any tiki-themed show a big event, and the only way it gets better than having Denny starring as guest of honor in an "exotica" concert is having Augie Colón, the percussionist who was with him back in the '50s, on stage with him.

That's the game plan tomorrow night when Denny and Colón headline "Primitiva! Don Tiki's Tribute to the Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny" at the Hawaii Theatre.

Don Tiki, created by Lloyd Kandell and Kit Ebersbach as Hawaii's

ultimate Martin Denny tribute

band and "keeper of the flame" of Denny's exotic "jungle jazz" sound, will be joined by famed percussionist Buddy Fo, Ho'okena, Teresa Bright, Chant, Willow Chang, and the Royal Polynesian Dancers.

Adding another "keeper of the flame" angle to the event will be the presence of Lopaka Colón, son of Augie, who is perpetuating the family tradition of intricate percussion and "jungle noises." Lopaka will join his father and "Uncle Martin" on stage as well.

"(Lopaka is) a very talented young man. I'm very proud of him," Denny said during a conversation with him and his daughter Christina, earlier this week.

Christina, who had been living on the mainland since the mid-'70s, returned home recently and has become her father's care-giver and unofficial social secretary who helps sort out demands on his time made by fans from around the world.

"We've always had a real close relationship, but it's different now," Christina said.

"He's always been just "Daddy" to me, and growing up with it was like no big thing, but now I'm kind of in awe of how popular he is. There was a time when he wasn't that popular -- there'd be a few people who might remember him -- but since '90 he's been current; everywhere we go people know him. I walk the dog and people say, "Your dad is Martin Denny!" They recognize his dog!"

The Don Tiki Dancers pay homage to Exotica king Martin Denny (inset).

CHRISTINA GOT A firsthand view of her father's resurgent popularity in 1998 when he played a concert on the mainland with Augie.

"There were people of all ages, standing room (only) ... he was followed by a big name but the reception he got was eye-opening for me. Even the young people now know him."

Then there was the Seattle premiere of "Breakfast of Champions." Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte were the stars, but the soundtrack consisted of 14 Martin Denny classics including "Quiet Village," and while film fans were there to see the stars, the stars were fans of her father.

"It just keeps escalating," she says -- record sales, fan mail and e-mail from around the world, and capacity-plus crowds whenever "tiki fans" know he's going to play.

Word that Martin Denny was going to play a set at the La Mariana Sailing Club drew such a crush of people in April that the entire place was jammed solid. (Harold Chang, who provided the "frog noises at La Mariana, is also expected to perform tomorrow.)

Time permitting, Denny may slip in something unexpected -- a "Porgy & Bess" medley, perhaps, before he gets to "Quiet Village," the ultimate example of "exotica." He'll be playing at least one song in honor of his late wife, June, as well.

"June left me a beautiful legacy -- Christina," he said. "She's a jewel, my life-support really, and very very close to me. It's great to have her with me."

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