Mokai Official Biography
On his 2019 album, The Jaybird Said, Mokai offers the listener a vision and feeling to be appreciated over and over. His third full-length release features songs that demonstrate his considerable songwriting chops and his unique fingerpicking style.
The album is produced by well-known Bay Area guitarist, James Nash (Waybacks), who Guitar Player called one of “50 Transcendent Acoustic Guitarists.” Besides engineering and producing, Nash adds lead work on acoustic and electric guitar, slide and mandolin.
The first single, Mama’s Got the Blues, features Nash on electric guitar and Julie Wolf (Indigo Girls, Ani Di Franco) on piano and Hammond B3. “I wanted to write something to honor single mothers who face so many challenges in our country today,” says Mokai. “Each line in the song is an image from the life of a mother I know.”
After spending his youth as an environmental activist, Mokai came down from his tree and began writing unforgettable folk songs that find their way into your heart.
Three decades later, Mokai has taken root in the Northern California music community, as a performer at numerous venues, and a participant and instructor at music festivals.
Based in San Francisco, Mokai (rhymes with woke-eye) creates and performs songs that inspire and move people to care.
In the song, Stone on Stone, the jaybird says: “We each have a piece of the puzzle.” This album is Mokai’s piece, offering a kind of storytelling that leaves audiences thinking, talking, wondering and entertained.
Mokai has performed at venues large and small, including festival stages, benefits, protests, intimate listening rooms and house concerts. He’s being honored this year for 15 years of performances in shelters and hospitals for Bread and Roses Presents. He is an expert at traditional guitar styles and teaches the guitar workshop each year at the Strawberry Music Festival, one of the longest-running folk music festivals.
His original guitar style echoes his life-long love affair with the playing of pre-war era bluesmen and early 60s-era Greenwich Village folk. His moods are reminiscent of classic songwriters like John Prine and Townes Van Zandt.
His studio recordings include performances by a roster of Bay Area talent, including Todd Sickafoose (Ani Di Franco), Jon Evans (Tori Amos), Matt Eakle (David Grisman) and Philip Brezina (Brothers Comatose).
The album can be pre-ordered at https://smarturl.it/mokai3 and will be released on August 23rd.
You can hear the first single Mama’s Got the Blues at: https://smarturl.it/mokai3/bandcamp
Mokai is pronounced MO-ki, long ‘o’, long ‘i’; Accent on 1st syllable.
What Others Say
Radio and Press Quotes
“Very 21st century lyrics to a fingerpicking style that originated from the Piedmont style of blues guitar picking. Reminds me a lot of Dave Van Ronk, of the great folk scare of the 60s.”
Kevin Vance, Across the Great Divide – KPFA
“…a fine performer and a helluva guitarist.”
Stevie Coyle – Mighty Fine Guitars
“Great message in a vivid, deftly expressed package! Even more incredible live….”
Rosalie Howarth – KFOG FM
“…jazzy, jammy, bluesy structures around earthly laments, tales of ordinary folks, and the human struggle in general.”
Kelly Vance, Stefanie Kalem – East Bay Express
“Mokai is a fine guitarist with eclectic arrangements.”
Derk Richardson – KPFA FM
“Toe-tappin’ blues riffs, catchy, interesting melodies, and innovative instrumentation.”
“You really honor the tradition of folk and songwriting.”
Anonymous Audience Member
Some Venues & Stages Mokai has played:
The Lost Church, SF, CA • Red Poppy Arthouse, SF, CA • Lagunitas Brewery, Sonoma, CA • Hopmonk Brewery, Sonoma, CA • Point Richmond Concerts, Point Richmond, CA • The Monkey House, Berkeley, CA • Subterranean Arthouse, Berkeley, CA • Aroma Roasters, Santa Rosa, CA • Sleeping Lady, Fairfax, CA • Bazaar Cafe, SF, CA • Cafe du Nord, SF, CA • Dolores Park Cafe, SF, CA • Starry Plough, Berkeley, CA • San Gregorio General Store.
American River Music Festival • Strawberry Music Festival • North Beach Jazz Festival • SolFest • Reggae on the River • Earthdance • Harmony Festival • San Francisco Folk Festival • Berkeley Folk Festival • El Cerrito Folk Festival.