Tabú (Taboo)


Tabu (1931) Matahi-1Tabu (1931) poster

In its article titled The Lecuona Song, says,

“Taboo” (or “Tabu” — the spellings are interchangeable): F.W. Murnau’s 1930 film of the same name had put the word into the popular vocabulary. A blend (or bastardization, depending on your viewpoint) of documentary and fiction, Murnau’s film was shot on location in Tahiti and was, for many Americans, their first view of the South Pacific.

Tabú (Margarita Lecuona) — The composer was a cousin of the famous Cuban composer and pianist Ernesto Lecuona. Tabú (also recorded as Tabou, Tabu, and Taboo) is a jazz and popular music standard which was first recorded by Cuarteto Machin in 1934.

Bob Russell wrote an English language lyric which was used as early as the 1 February 1935 recording by Vic Berton and his Orchestra, issued on Vocalion 2974, c/w “Blue.”

Margarita Lecuona also wrote the song Babalu, which was popularized in the Latin American world, (according to Wikipedia) by Miguelito Valdés, and in the United States by Desi Arnaz.


Cuarteto Machin — 1934?


The Lecuona Cuban Boys — (as Tabou) B-side of the 78 rpm EMI Columbia single Amapola (catalog numbers: DF 1820, France; F.B. 1273, UK) — recorded, suggests the provider, in Paris in October 1935


The Comedian Harmonists — 1937

– Rudolf Mayreder – Bass
– Roman Cycowski – Baritone
– Harry Frommermann – 3. Tenor / buffo
– Erich A.Collin – 2. Tenor
– Hans Rexeis – 1. Tenor
– Ernst Engel / Fritz Kramer – Pianist


Herbert Ernst Groh — Odeon O-26 304b / mx. Be. 12343, Berlin, 1939

From the description by the video provider:

This video features a beautifully arranged version by the treme[n]dously popular Swiss tenor Herbert Ernst Groh (1906-82) who studied in Milan, Zürich and München and made his first recordings in Italy in the late 1920s. From 1930 onwards he recorded exclusively for the Lindström company. He recorded not only classical parts but also schlager and movie songs. H[i]s enormous popularity led to movie offers as well but Groh failed to make an impact on the big screen.

The video features scenes from “Mandalay” – an American movie from 1933 starring Kay Francis – the Queen of Warner Brothers until the arrival of Bette Davis. This movie was made before the strict production code came into effect.


Max Rumpf mit seinem Tanzorchester, Gesang: Schuricke-Terzett (Schuricke Trio)– Imperial 17256, Aufnahmedatum: Mai 1939


Enrique Madriguera and his Orchestra — recorded on 12 June 1939; issued on Brunswick 8407, c/w “Orchid in the Moonlight”

presently unavailable


Peter Kreuder mit seinen Tanz-Rhythmikern — The disc is identified by the provider as “Telefunken A 2837/ 23820” recorded or released in Berlin, 1939. Kreuder also recorded a noisier version with his Tanzorchester in 1939.


Orchester Theo Reuter
Gesang: Erwin Hartung
Schallplattenvolksverband / Clangor
Matritzennummer: T 4690
Aufnahmejahr: 1939



Versions by jazz artists include:

Stan Kenton and his Orchestra — recorded 1944?


Johnny Smith Quintet — recorded in New York City on 11 March 1952 ; issued on the 78 rpm single Royal Roost 547, backed with “Moonlight in Vermont”

Johnny Smith (guitar), Stan Getz (tenor sax), Sanford Gold (piano), Eddie Safranski (bass), Don Lamond (drums)


Yusef Lateef Quintet — recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, 11 October 1957; released in 1959 on the LP Other Sounds


Morris Nanton — Morris Nanton: piano, Al Beldini: drums, Norman Edge: bass — released on the 1965 album Something We’ve Got


Dorothy Lamour-37-The Hurricane-3

Taboo was also favored by Exotica exponents:

Les Baxter — from the 1955 album Caribbean Moonlight


From Wikipedia’s Arthur Lyman profile:

3587-CAR Denny3After graduating from McKinley High School [in Honolulu] in 1951, he put music on hold to work as a desk clerk at the Halekulani hotel. It was there in 1954 that he met pianist Martin Denny, who, after hearing him play, offered the 21-year old a spot in his band. Initially wary, Lyman was persuaded by the numbers: he was making $280 a month as a clerk, and Denny promised more than $100 a week. Denny had been brought to Hawaii in January on contract by Don the Beachcomber, and stayed in Hawaii to play nightly in the Shell Bar at the Hawaiian Village. Other members of his band were Augie Colon on percussion and John Kramer on string bass. Denny, who had traveled widely, had collected numerous exotic instruments from all over the world and liked to use them to spice up his jazz arrangements of popular songs. The stage of the Shell Bar was very exotic, with a little pool of water right outside the bandstand, and rocks and palm trees growing around. Arthur-Lyman-2One night Lyman had “had a little to drink,” and when they began playing the theme from Vera Cruz, Lyman let out a few bird calls. “The next thing you know, the audience started to answer me back with all kinds of weird cries. It was great.” These bird calls became a trademark of Lyman’s sound.[5]

When Denny’s “Quiet Village” was released on record in 1957 it became a smash hit, igniting a national mania for all things Hawaiian, including tiki idols, exotic drinks, aloha shirts, luaus, straw hats and Polynesian-themed restaurants like Trader Vic’s.

That same year, Lyman split off from Denny to form his own group, continuing in much the same style but even more flamboyant. [read more]

Arthur Lyman — from the 1958 album Taboo – The Exotic Sounds of Arthur Lyman, HiFi Records SR806 (Stereo), HiFi Records R806 (Mono)


Marty Wilson and his Orchestra — from the 1959 album Jun’gala, Warner Bros. B 1326 (Mono), Warner Bros. WS 1326 (Stereo)


The Del-Tones — Storm Records S-983 — date unknown, probably late 1950s


The Surfmen— from The Sounds of Exotic Island, 1960

About The Surfmen, says:

The closest thing in exotica to a super group. 101 Strings creator and Somerset label chief D.L. Miller, acting on his always-reliable trend-following instincts, pulled together a group of top Hollywood session men, including Jack “Mr. Bongo” Constanzo, Alvino Rey on console guitar, Irv Cottler on drums, Emil Richards on vibes, the late great Jimmy Rowles on piano, and Paul Horn on sax (who would later record in such authentically exotic settings as the Pyramids and the Taj Mahal). He gave them the task of producing a quickie knock-off of the then-popular Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman sound.

They appear to have taken on the challenge with enthusiasm, taking more than a few opportunities to poke fun at Denny/Lyman trademarks like bird calls (the Surfmen’s are possibly the phoniest ever put on vinyl) and savage jungle noises. Their material reads like a primer of exotica music: “Quiet Village”; “Taboo”; Moon of Manakoora; “Hawaiian War Chant”; Fire Goddess; Orchid Lagoon; Jungle Romance; Bali Hai. [read more]


Continue on to page 2 of 2.


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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Morgan Zeigler
    Apr 03, 2016 @ 16:54:22

    Personally this is my favourite.



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