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Tiki Taboo mixes old and new
BY GARY CHUN / firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to Tiki Taboo, Version 2.0. It’s more of the same but a little more accomplished.
Founder James Ganeko, harking back to the band’s origins in 2004, said he wanted a raw, garage-band feel. But nine years later, with the core lineup still together — Ganeko and Byron Lai on twangy guitars, and Bert Kono on drums — it was tough to sound amateurish.
KALEIDOSCOPE: TABOO EDITION
Featuring Tiki Taboo, with Mano Kane, Ross Jackson and DJ Rhombus
Where: thirtyninehotel, 39 N. Hotel St.
When: 9 p.m. today
Cost: $10, 21 and over
Before Taboo, these three musicians had been on the local scene for a long time, reaching back to the 1970s, mainly playing punk, world music and blues with bands of yore including Hat Makes the Man, Pagan Babies and Third Degree.
The original Tiki Taboo included Beano Shots (aka Pearlridge watercress farmer David Sumida) and ace recording engineer Milan Bertosa. That lineup released a debut album eight years ago.
Over the years, supporting musicians have come and gone, but now with Sonia Patel on bass, the band is ready to step up its game with the recent release of a long-overdue sophomore album, “Tiki Tonic.”
It’s not so much a tonic as a smooth cocktail that goes down easy, evoking the feel of classic surf and rock instrumentals of the late 1950s and early ’60s.
Copies of the new album will be available at the band’s gig tonight at this week’s version of Kaleidoscope, the alternative music showcase held at Chinatown’s thirtyninehotel.
Ganeko’s concept for Tiki Taboo was inspired by music he first heard back in his homeland, Japan — particularly the legendary Ventures, the American quartet that took the surf-rock groove around the world.
Tiki Taboo has been around long enough to be a familiar presence on the local scene but plays rather infrequently compared with other longtime bands here.
“We’re a more specialized band,” Ganeko said, “not like a club band that can play all night. In fact, we do better at special events and parties. We’ve gotten invitations to play on Maui and on the mainland, although we haven’t accepted any yet.
“But we’ve always been playing,” he said.
“There have been a number of changes, especially in the bass chair. Sonia Patel is doing a good job with us now. I’ve worked with her daughter as a music teacher, and sometimes I involve the parents to join along. Sonia did well enough that I asked her to stay afterwards one day and just jam around. She got really into it, so I told her, ‘If you really practice, I can introduce you to the band.’ It worked out that Tiki Taboo is now her very first band.”
It took about a year to finish up “Tiki Tonic” with the invaluable help of Bertosa as engineer. It’s a savvy mixture of covers and originals. Ganeko and Lai divvy up arrangements on popular classics like the “Peter Gunn” theme, “Sukiyaki” and the Duke Ellington standard “Caravan.”
“Byron (Lai)’s arrangement of ‘Sukiyaki’ is a little more jazzier than the original,” Ganeko said.
Speaking of original, Lai and Ganeko offer up tantalizing bits of original music with titles like “Cleopatra,” “Blue Angel,” “Forbidden Sun” and “Chopes” (pronounced cho-po), named after a notoriously tough surfing spot in Tahiti.
Expect to hear a little more about Tiki Taboo in the near future.
“A fan of ours is helping design a full-on website for us. The band has always been about making good-fun music, and this version is working out really well,” Ganeko said.