Let me first tell you that Sweden never ever had any Tiki bars. Polynesia was of course very popular here during the 1940s-1960s, as in the rest of the western world, and many jazz venues held Hawaiian luau‚s but Tiki pop culture has been an unknown phenomena to Swedes. I was bitten by the Tiki bug as a kid in the 1960s when I saw photos from the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland and after that I always dreamt about visiting that magic place. My father had some Yma Sumac records which mesmerized me and then a little later I started reading Thor Heyerdahls books. These things were my introduction to exotica.
Many years later, in 1995, I decided it was time to do something about this so me and some Tiki pals, Max Fredriksson and Katarina Johansson started doing a Tiki club concept called the Tiki Room in Stockholm . Actually I had already had a club in the late 1980‚s callet the Fez were the bar area was a little exotic inspired and only played 50s exotica like Denny and Lyman. The first couple of times the Tiki Room club was held at an old restaurant, in the Old Town district of Stockholm, called Chapuclack. I remodeled the place with bamboo walls, Polynesian masks etc for every Tiki Room club night. I also forced the bartenders to do some classic tropical drinks like Mai Tai´s etc. Although I gave them the exact recipe and instructions they did very half assed jobs at actually mixing them. I guess you all know how that goes. The good thing however was that we succeeded in bringing together Tiki/Exotica fans from all over Sweden who didn’t‚t know of each other until this happened. Me and Max DJ‚d but the best thing was that we got an old Swedish exotica orchestra, Bo Axelzon and his Exotic Sounds, to reform and appear live at the venue. This was largely accomplished by Bo‚s son Adam Axelzon. Adam is also a great percussionist and of course joined the band, rehearsed them and gathered old sheet music, together with me, for the band to play. Bo Axelzon originally did this kind of music back in the 1950s and hadn’t done it since, but this project got to be some great fun for all. It actually turned out so good I decided to record and release a 10‰ record with them where I joined in with some Alvino Rey-esque lap steel, sitar and Turkish saz. Since they never recorded during the 1950s-60s this became their first record. It has what I feel a characteristic Swedish exotica sound and was also one of the first new Exotica records. Bo Axelzon & his Exotic Sounds.
In 1997 the Chapuclack restaurant closed and the Tiki Room moved on to different venues in Stockholm including guest appearances and some huge conceptual shows. My band then, The Fab Fezmen V, appeared as well as Bo Axelzon, at several of the evenings as well as some newly trained (by me)Swedish Hula dancing wahines. The Tiki Room was even invited to guest spot in one of the rooms at Stockholms largest nightspot; the Palladium, twice. Jonas Svensson, the guitarist, in the Fezmen V also joined me in the Tiki Room endeavor and we decided to open up a shop, Subliminal Sounds and Stuff, in Stockholm for Tiki/Exotica/Surf and psych interested people. We filled it with old Tiki mugs, many of which I found on an expedition to the Bowery in N.Y. (!) weird records, books, videos etc and even vintage Mexican wrestling masks which I had purchased from an old wrestling promoter. Max Fredriksson carved the first (as far as we know) Swedish Tiki to grace the entrance to the shop. We held some Tiki Room club nights at the Sjogras bar included wild performances by exotica duo the Craftsmen and such Swedish exotica music luminaries as Ebbe Belfrage, who‚s been doing exotica on his accordion since the 1930s. We also had some really gruesome and bloody wrestling matches with wrestlers ducked out in the best Luca Libre tradition. During all this I was invited to do a Theremin concert for the King and Queen of Sweden, as well as the top military brass at the Museum of War in Stockholm. A weird show to say the least.
During the summer of 1998 I toured Sweden with the first mobile Tiki Bar, including two gigantic Tikis carved by Jonas and his girlfriend Jenny. Me and Magnus were Dj´ing, the Fab Fezmen V and Stockholms premier surf band, the Barbwires, played some rowdy gigs at festivals and clubs all over the country. After this wild ride all exotic-nicks in Stockholm sort of settled down in their own home bars except when stopping by the shop. But business was not that good since most people didn’t really understand what we were doing, so we sadly decided to close the shop. Then I started my quest to find a bar/restaurant owner brave enough to sponsor a full fledged Tiki Temple. This was mostly a dream as no one believed that this, after Swedish measures, bizarre idea would ever come to fruition.
Finally, in 2000, I found some interested people at the Stockholm watering hole Mellow. Their cellar was the perfect place and is next door to a gigantic city church. I couldn’t‚t resist the temptation to open up a Tiki paradise next to them. I got our expert carver and photographer Max Fredriksson to start out on creating 3 gigantic Tikis. Me and Adam Axelzon spent endless nights in my Safari Bar, in drinking binges, making up the plans. Later on we also got some great help by soon to be architect Kristina Cedrins. As I already knew that it is impossible to find good bamboo, Lahala, Thatching and Tapa in Sweden I decided to ask Bob, at the legendary Oceanic Arts for some help. What could be better than working with the guys who‚ve been involved in all this from the beginning. We also got some great pieces from Leroy Schmalz and lots of things from Safari Thatch in Florida. Everything was shipped over the Atlantic in a huge container which finally arrived in ice cold Stockholm at the end of November 2001.
Then we started the actual erecting of the temple and it took quite some time as there was only a few people building. Me and one of the bartenders: Nille, the owners: Olle and his brother Per, who‚s also the chef, and their dad: Lasse plus Adam who helped out when he had some spare time. In mid-December we were finally almost ready. The Tiki Room was all finally built and had two rooms and seats for about 80 persons. But. it was no idea to open when Christmas and new years were just around the corner so we decided to wait until after all the holidays. During the meantime I designed and wrote the texts for the Tiki Room menu. Not content with using mere clip art for the menu drink illustrations I had Magnus Sandberg do actual original paintings of the drinks. The Tiki Room logo Tiki used on our menu and matchbook were drawn by our carver Max Fredriksson and designed and colored by me. Finally after the holidays had passed it was time for the opening night; the 23rd of January 2002. A fitting date as this was also the celebration day for the two Nordic fertility gods Frey and Freya. So, it was a very special evening when Polynesian and Nordic fertility gods got to meet. The opening night was a wild bacchanalia and a totally crazy success. Tiki Room was totally packed with happy people drinking the good stuff from Moai mugs and volcano bowls. Lots of journalists, Swedish national TV, exotica fans and even people from the US embassy.
And now the Tiki Room is open Wednesday to Saturday the year round! The drinks, many of the old Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic classics, as well new masterful inventions by Jeff Berrey and of course some of our own concoctions, all expertly made and served as their supposed to. We also serve some great Polynesian inspired dishes. If someone would have told me that in a few years time you will actually have built a Tiki Bar in Sweden, I would have laughed. Even though I’ love to build one the idea would be to bizarre for anyone to ever sponsor. But here we are now and the fruits of dreams have sweet nectar indeed. So, if you‚re ever find yourself in Stockholm, you know where to go. Welcome!
Latest news: The Tiki Room has just added several marvelous drinks to the menu (below). Additional drink illustrations by Anneli Larsson.
/Stefan KéryTIKI ROOM Opening in Stockholm in 2001.