For Manny Moreno and Tanya Hong, a friendly racquetball match led to a life-long musical pairing.
"When I first shook her hand, I knew she was gonna be my wife," Moreno said of their meeting at one of Stockton's In-Shape City gyms 15 years ago. "I figured she'd give me music lessons."
He was right. Twice. Instead of swatting balls off walls, creating and playing "multicultural" music became the Morenos' unifying interest.
What started as a duo has evolved into Loki Rhythm, a 10-member group that includes their 13-year-old son, Seren, and "just wants to keep the musical spirit alive," Moreno said. "All cultures, songs, rhythms, customs and languages. And break some rules."
Both born in Stockton, the Morenos had music in common: Manny played snare in the Stockton Commodores drum-and-bugle corps (1975-77) and Tanya played clarinet in the San Francisco Symphony.
After carpal-tunnel syndrome forced her to stop, "We wanted to keep the musical part of our lives alive," Manny Moreno, 52, said.
So, he purchased $50,000 worth of musical instruments and equipment, figuring: "When we have time after work, let's just play."
It worked. Now, the Morenos are multiple instrumentalists. The group's 15-instrument palette ranges from basic guitar and ukulele to flugelhorn, washboard, East African and Chinese drums and Australian didgeridoo.
They create an original mix of Hawaiian, West African, middle eastern, Caribbean, zydeco, Latin jazz, Asian and Persian styles. With some digital infusions.
"Basically, we try to celebrate diversity in the Central Valley," Moreno said of Loki Rhythm's members, who range in age from 13 to 54.