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In Polynesian mythology (specifically: Maori), Tiki is the first man, created by either Tu Matauenga or Tane. He found the first woman, Marikoriko, in a pond. She seduced him and he became the father of Hine-Kau-Ataata.

Also in Polynesian mythology, a tiki or hei tiki is a kind of sculpture which results in a carving in the shape of a god. They each house a spirit. The creation of tikis is known from all over Polynesia. Among the Maori of New Zealand, the women wear phallic talismans around their necks to protect from infertility.

Tiki Culture

Tiki culture in America began in 1934, when a man by the name of Don Beach, a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber, opened a Polynesian-themed eatery in Hollywood that was part tap house, part funhouse. There, guests could enjoy tropical Asian cuisine and exotic rum punches while surrounded by flaming torches, rattan furniture, flower leis and brightly colored fabrics. More than a decade later, a fellow named Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adapted Don's formula for success and opened his own chain of tropical taverns, including locations in Oakland, San Francisco and Beverly Hills. Around this time, the soldiers were returning home from World War II, bringing with them stories and souvenirs from the South Pacific. Americans fell in love with their romanticized version of an exotic culture, and Polynesian design began to infuse every aspect of the country's visual aesthetic, from home accessories to architecture. Soon came integration of the idea into music by artists like Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman, and Martin Denny, who blended the Tiki idea through jazz augmented with Polynesian, Asian and Latin instruments and "tropical" themes creating the Exotica genre. This music blended the elements of Afro-Cuban rhythms, unusual instrumentations, environmental sounds, and lush romantic themes from Hollywood movies, topped off with evocative titles like "Jaguar God," into a cultural hybrid native to no place outside the San Fernando Valley.

There were two primary strains of this kind of exotica: Jungle and Tiki. Jungle exotica was definitely a Hollywood creation, with its roots in Tarzan movies and further back, to William Henry Hudson's novel, Green Mansions. Les Baxter was the king of jungle exotica, and spawned a host of imitators while opening the doors for a few more genuine articles such as Chaino, Thurston Knudson, and Guy Warren. Tiki exotica was introduced with Martin Denny's Waikiki nightclub combo cum jungle noises cover of Baxter's "Quiet Village." Tiki rode a wave of popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s marked by the entrance of Hawaii as the 50th state in 1959 and the introduction of Tiki hut cocktail bars and restaurants around the continental United States. Tiki exotica is now enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and Tiki mugs and torches that once collected dust in thrift stores are now hot items.