San Francisco, California, USA

Mokai's love for acoustic music comes through in his artful use of great songwriting, blues vocals and intriguing fingerstyle guitar. He pays homage to tradition and then pushes on into original territory. Never a dull moment in this dynamic performer's set. Modern folk-blues never sounded so good.


Mokai plays earthy, original music. Accompanying himself on fingerstyle guitar, he tells gripping stories, rhymes freely, and through his songs, melds the strange and beautiful into rootsy performances.

Versed in folk blues from an early age, he creates an intimate world for his audience, with his bluesy voice, engaging lyrics, and innovative fingerpicking. Bay Area DJ Rosalie Howarth (KFOG FM) commented: Great message in a vivid, deftly expressed packageincredible live!"

Mokai has made hundreds of appearances at rallies, benefits, coffeehouses, nightclubs, festivals, house concerts, in hospitals, shelters, and on radio stations.

Mokais sound can best be compared to other current Americana players who have a singer/songwriter side, such as Kelly Joe Phelps and David Jacob Strain. His original guitar style echoes his life-long love affair with the playing of seminal bluesmen like Big Bill Broonzy, and Dave Van Ronk.

His moods can be reminiscent of classic songwriters like John Prine and Townes Van Zandt, with that something raw in the vocals and lyrics. Intended mostly for acoustic music lovers, Mokais songs fit into the bigger picture alongside those of Dylan and Springsteen.

Mokai is pronounced MO-ki, long 'o', long 'i'; Accent on 1st syllable.

Some Venues & Festivals Mokai has played: Yoshi's, SF, CA Cafe du Nord, SF, CA The Independent, San Francisco, CA Red Devil Lounge, SF, CA Elbo Room, SF, CA Bazaar Cafe, SF, CA Dolores Park Cafe, SF, CA Sleeping Lady, Fairfax, CA Starry Plough, Berkeley CA San Gregorio General Store Harmony Festival, Santa Rosa, CA Aroma Roaster's, Santa Rosa, CA North Beach Jazz Festival, SF, CA SolFest, Hopland,CA Green Festival, SF, CA SF Free Folk Festival Humboldt Folklife Festival, Earthdance, Laytonville, CA

*live studio performances

Sounds Like: Mokai's music encompasses the poetic irreverence of Ani DiFranco and the grit and soulfullness of Ben Harper.

Influences: Dave Van Ronk, Big Bill Broonzy, Doc Watson, Mose Allison, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Gil Scott Heron, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Paul Simon.

Shared Bills with: David Lindley, Eric McFadden, David Jacobs-Strain, Garrin Benfield, Walter Strauss, Erika Luckett, Jeff Pehrson and Jim Brunberg (Box Set), AJ Roach, Austin Willacy, Shelley Doty, Etienne de Rocher, Joanne Rand, Mark Growden, Walter Strauss, Teja Gerken, James Nash (The Waybacks), Shaun Cromwell


"It Ain't What You Is, It's What You Ain't"

Written By: Mokai

Little Sue is much smaller than you
She’s got a tiny hat and a itty bitty shoe
She works short shifts and she lives off her tips
She makes small talk, takes baby steps when she walks

She’s got a heart big as a lion
She’s got a big appetite
I told her I’m buyin’.

Old Buddy is a funny somebody
He’s tall and thin and he’s got cruddy skin
He looks like a jerk and his teeth need work
His posture’s bad, his wardrobe is sad

He’s got a heart pretty as a poem
He’s just a mess o’ tangles, waitin’ for a comb.

Sooner or later, brother, we all discover
You can’t judge a book by its cover
Would you be surprised to find that things are disguised
And they’re often not what you surmised

Crazy Granny is quite uncanny
She’s become untamed, she don’t remember her name
Everything was fine ‘til she started crossin’ state lines
But now she can’t get far ‘cause they took away her car

She’s got a heart, pure as a saint
Sometimes it ain’t what you is
It’s what you ain’t.

No, it ain’t what you is, it’s what you ain't
Ain't what you is, it ain't what you is, it’s what you ain't


Written By: Mokai


Life, it is a road, you must travel from end to end
And the happiness you seek, it is just around the bend
You struggle to move forward, but as you look around
You see you’re spending all your strength, just to try to hold some ground.

Backslidin’ Wo----ah, backslidin’
Backslidin', Wooah backsliding' once again

Once I had ideals, but I learned ideals are cheap
They won’t buy you decent food, they won’t get you a place to sleep.
I know that it would help, if I could only stop and think,
But I need another smoke, and I need another drink.


Well now there’s only remnants of the hopes that I once had
And that memory of my dreams, well, it only makes me mad.
The world that could’ve been, the world we swore we’d make,
Oh, but that little step to change, is a step I’ll never take.


Easy Chair

Written By: Mokai

His Easy Chair, his Easy Chair
Nowhere that he'd rather be than there

He doesn't think it's fair
When he's got to leave his Easy Chair

verse 1:

He bought it decades ago–right after the wife's new carpet
From there he ran the whole show–the dog, the kids and the TV set

Now with the mortgage paid, the children gone, his spouse in her grave
He retreats to it like a hermit to his cave


verse 2:

Social Security and a decent pension,
Grocery delivery and take out on the weekend

No night out and no vacation–he just doesn't care
As long as he doesn't have to leave his Easy Chair


verse 3:

He knew he should have tried to be a better man
But then one night he died watching Letterman

By the time that somebody noticed–they could still take his stuff to goodwill
Except for one thing that they had to landfill


Living In A House Of Cards

Written By: Mokai

Living In A House Of Cards – words & music ©Mokai

You take your place at the table
You wear your poker face, the one Cain showed Abel
But you don't know you're Living in a House of Cards

You ante up, and place your bet
You raise and bluff and puff your cigarette
But you don't know you're Living in a House of Cards

Chips clash and dance on emerald felt
You take your chance with the cards your dealt
One bad hand and it's too late
A faceless card seals your fate

A golden ring on the dealer's finger
Don't mean a thing, but the doubts still linger
You wonder if you're Living in a House of Cards
You wonder if you're Living in a House of Cards
You don't know you're Living in a House of Cards


"Any Distraction'll Do" - 2012 full length album

Mokai's latest release, "Any Distraction'll Do", 12 tracks of folk-blues based music, is a journey from the roots of folk-blues, on the road to modern guitar. Mokai's signature fingerpicking is eerie and spell-binding on the title track, then warm and comfortable on the instrumental solo guitar pieces, on newly arranged traditional tunes, and his edgy originals.

The folk-blues idiom is teased and tugged until it yields unexpected forms. The album's lighter moments are balanced by a bluesman's unflinching look at the state of the world. The inspired production from engineer and acoustic bassist Jon Evans (Tori Amos) conveys this outsider musician's deeply honest perspective.

With lovingly recorded acoustic instruments, and powerful ensemble playing from the supporting musicians, "Any Distraction'll Do" draws from the roots of the blues, and inspiration from the artist's own path.

"You Can't fool Me" – 2005 – 5 track CD including home and live recordings

"Unearthed" – 2003, full length debut album

From authentic Folk Blues guitar chops, to raving poetics, "Unearthed" digs up a wide array of styles and perspectives. Recorded at the Hyde St. studios in San Francisco, the disc bursts at the seams with talent, including performances by award-winning vocalist Erika Luckett, instrumentalist Mark Growden, soloist Matt Eakle (Dave Grisman Quintet) and Upright Bass phenom Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco).

Recorded in a historic studio in San Francisco, this collection is the only document of Mokai's lifelong dedication to songwriting and fingerstyle guitar and the depth of his original musical vision.

The CD received radio play throughout Northern California, including on KPFA*, KFOG, KALW*, KPIG, KVMR, KZYX*, KPOO*, KALX, KMUD*, KHUM*, KDVS, and the Pacifica Radio program Democracy Now! *indicates live studio performances

Set List

Originals: progressive fingerstyle guitar with bluesy vocals. Lyrics dealing with issues from the philosophical, to the romantic, to the topical.

Traditionals: Traditional fingerpicking. Faithful renditions of the classic blues masters and new interpretations in the tradition.