Ultra Swank - Retro Adventures

Appreciating Exotica Jazz

Written by Jessie Desmond • August 12th, 2015
Appreciating Exotica Jazz

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 lays a smaller off-shoot of design that’s been referred 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.

It’s a mixture of primitivism and modern art. The most popular style of primitive modern has its own sub-category called “Tiki Modern”. It’s 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. Primitive Modern and Exotica Jazz allowed the average American to enjoy a sort of idealized sense of exotic locations and new cultures.

If you have the time to find these tunes (check youtube), 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.

Some of my recommendations

Jessie Desmond

Jessie has always been a creative person with a passion for writing, painting, music, film and the paranormal. It's taken a lot of hard work since she came into this world in 1982, but she continues to pursue her passions on a daily basis.

Find out more about Jessie Desmond

Get all the goods straight to your inbox