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The definition of “motivated” is being re-written by Pauline Houston – mother, painter, sculptor, singer, arts-collaborative founder, and much more. MOKA is a 5-year-old project that she began with Robb McCall. Although Houston learned to sing in the church choir, McCall is a professionally trained musician. “I think he is the best guitarist in the city right now. He can really make a guitar cry,” Houston boasts. They combine with four other musicians to create a funky and psychedelic take on the classic Philly Soul sound. Like all her work, though, the songs take on a political edge, tackling subjects ranging from the injustices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to inner-city violence. Their songs begin as politically laced soul and slowly transcend into psychedelic riffs where the political message is reduced to a single phrase, repeated rhythmically in tandem with the guitar and percussion. The effect is powerful and provocative on more than one level, engaging the thinking mind as well as a raw appreciation of musical beauty. – Brian Rademaekers, North Star

"VITAL AND COMPELLING" -- Carol Denker, The Spirit - Star Review

Philly's Newest Renaissance Woman
By Brian Rademaeks North Star

"I guess you could call me a Renaissance woman", Pauline Houston-McCall mused while ticking off all her current projects. The title certainly would fit the hyper, multi tasking Northern Liberties resident. Houston-McCall is the voice of the local soul band MOKA. The founder of the women's art collective Women Holler!, a well known Philadelphia sculptor, and mother of a 5year old son. But listening to her passionate crooning during Monday's noon concert in LOVE Park, one might think that she spends all her time at the microphone.
MOKA is a 2year old project that she began with her husband Rob McCall. Although Houston-McCall learned to sing in the church choir, her husband is a professionally trained musician. "I think he is the best playing guitarist in the city right now. He can really make a guitar cry", Houston-McCall boasts. The couple combine with four other musicians to create funky and psychedelic take on the classic Philly Soul sound. Like all her work, though the songs take on a political edge. Tackling subjects ranging from injustices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to inner-city violence. The songs begin as politically laced soul, and slowly transcend into psychedelic riffs where the political message is reduced to a single phrase, repeated rhythmically in tandem with the guitar and percussion. The effect is powerful and provocative on more than one level, engaging the thinking mind as well as a raw appreciation of musical beauty.
And as much as she loves singing with the band, Houston-McCall admits that it is just one part of her mission to bring the message of community to Philadelphia. Those who indulged in last Friday's Girard Nights event, most likely saw her art work, and the work of Women Holler! members along the avenue. She has been working with the Philadelphia group La Colectiva to build an art-based community along Girard Avenue, and showcasing the potential for that environment during the Girard Nights events.
To Houston-McCall, Girard Avenue represents more than just a potential commercial corridor. After living in Northern Liberties for 14 years, and watching it grow into a thriving community, Girard Avenue has become to her a symbolic border to the neighborhoods that have been left behind. "We want to find a middle ground between Northern Liberties, and North Philly" explains Houston-McCall. "Girard Avenue is like a dividing line. I want to introduce Elizabeth to Shaniqua." Houston-McCall hopes to do that through Women Holler! She started the group about three years ago as a way for female artists to support one another. "I was constantly around other mothers, and I began to realize that there were so many mothers that were artists too. We were all struggling to find time in the studio, and do things a mom has to do, and one day it just struck me that we had to start looking after each other" said Houston-McCall. The group acts as a network for women looking for everything from child care to gallery space. Houston-McCall said. "We women have to do it all. So now we have each other to nourish each other. It's a way to say, We are here, and we have something beautiful to say." The group has also brought her in contact with women all over the city who want better neighborhoods and education for their children.

The definition of motivated is being re-written by a Northern Liberties resident who is a mother, sculptor, a singer, and arts collaborative founder, and much more.

Come See Her..........
Pauline Houston-Mcall's sculpture work will be on display this weekend at the 737 arts studios located at 737 N. 4th St. from noon to 6pm. All viewing is open to the public. MOKA will perform at the Nov. 3rd Girard Nights event at the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Association Bldg on 2nd just N of Girard Ave. 9pm

"I have been working with a lot of children and mothers in my trade, and with people everywhere, the one common thing is love. We want to use that to bring the community together", she says. The group is now looking for a permanent gallery space. A need that fits perfectly into the larger goal of revitalizing Girard Avenue. "We are hot and heavy looking for a building along Girard Avenue to open a gallery in. We don't have a lot of money, but are rich in the arts". She hopes that events like Girard Nights will show area business owners, that the arts can be profitable. One problem with improving the neighborhoods, is that the traditional families, and low-income artists often get chased out of the communities they helped build, says Houston-McCall. "We want to turn this whole gentrification thing around so that everyone can stay here. There are women in our group whose families have been in these neighborhoods for eighty five years" says the impassioned artist. Through her art, music, and organizing, she hopes to tackle all of these issues, and more. "I see all of these things as ways of communicating. If we can get a message out to the world, we will do it in any medium we can. If nothing else, we will be empowering the community."

- North Star

Time Is Now (4Your Records) represents a new generation of original Philly soul sound, but borrows heavy influences from hip-hop and jazz. -- Deesha Dyer, - Philadelphia City Paper

MOKA offers an updated take on Philly Soul that could win over just about any listener. There are plenty of styles to offer: funk, rap, world music, and more, but when it comes down to it, these songs stay with the listener. "Whole New Kind of Love" and "Still" are radio hits in the making (unless this sentence ends up jinxing them.) Album highlight "Unchain My Soul" brings in a choir to great effect. Opener "Lies & Alibis" does a great job of setting the tone for the rest of the album. Lyrical topics range from the political to the personal. Vocalist Pauline Houston delivers a stunning performance throughout, but the rest of the band's efforts cannot be diminished. This is a surprisingly powerful first effort. In a just world, MOKA would be making waves in the near future. And who knows, that might even happen in this world.
-- Kevin McKeon, The Compendium (Vol. 3, Issue 12)
- The Compendium

The soul of Moka are Robb McCall and Pauline Houston. Pauline is the singer and lyricist. Robb, a multi-instrumentalist, is the arranger. Together they create multi-layered music with international appeal. While CD sales are good in Japan and Europe, Moka is Philadelphia through and through.

Blending many elements, including soul, blues, rap, gospel, reggae, and more, Moka’s sound is wonderfully fresh. The music is unique and yet somehow very Philly, with echoes of Jill Scott, Jazzyfatnastees and other Philly favorites bubbling through now and again. Moka definitely has a Philadelphia soul, which isn’t surprising as Robb and Pauline are both lifelong Philadelphians. As they say, “it’s in the water.” Both children of local jazz musicians, they draw from their family roots, and well as their roots as Philadelphians to create music that draws from the past while being something new. Their sound centers on Pauline’s strong soulful vocals propelled by a strong beat and tasty licks from Robb.

They have just released their debut album, Time is Now, which is available for sale internationally at CD Baby and iTunes and locally at Liberties Walk, 1040 N. American Street, Unit 1001, in Northern Liberties, and AKA Music, 21 N. 2nd Street in Old City. Go out to CD Baby and play a few tracks. It’s free. I think you will like what you hear. I did.

Check them out:
CD Baby - uwishunu

Philly is a soul town, through and through.

In the 70s, our own special flavor of soul – Philly Soul – made waves across the country with its funk influences and lush arrangements, and later paved the way for that crazy stuff they called disco.

And while attention over the years has drifted to various other Philly music scenes that have sprouted, soul is still alive in the City of Brotherly Love.

Proving that is Moka, a six-piece from Northern Liberties with the ability to deliver some incredibly smooth soul jams that are as complex as they are cool.

Even if you aren’t really a fan of modern-day soul, this is a band to appreciate.

Moka’s sound is electric, alive, fluid and smattered with a handful of eclectic influences. The smoky undertones of soul are there too, and they are oh so good.

On its latest album, Time Is Now, the group calls on a touch of blues, classic Philly soul, Motown, acid jazz guitar riffs, hip-hop lyricism, gospel goodness, reggae vibes and a healthy dose of rock vigor.

If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is.

Arranged primarily by lead guitarist Robb McCall, the songs of Moka are stunningly lush pieces of composition that underscore the skills of the experienced family of musicians who make up the band.

In many ways, Moka is an instrumental glory that could stand on its own quite nicely. McCall is a Philly native from a musical family who trained classically at the Settlement Music School and studied world music at the New England Conservatory of Music.

That professional training shines through in his arrangements, a compelling blend of rocking musicianship and tight execution.

Giving life to his creations is a cast of seasoned music men, including percussionist Luis DiCupe, Damon Bennett on keys, bassist Tone Whitfield, and alternating drummers Jimmy Coleman and Steve McKie.

The cherry on top, though, is Pauline Houston, the mama lion of Moka who gives voice to the heady grooves of funk, jazz and soul explored by the band.

Houston, also a Philly native from a music-rich family that happens to include some 23 other siblings, sports a voice that is capable of deep seductive soul, rough blues and straight-up rock.

It’s a pliability that’s needed to keep up with the diverse sounds of Moka, and Houston does just that while adding yet another layer of richness to the songs with her deft vocals.

All this is wonderfully captured on Time Is Now, which was released in October. Produced and recorded by McCall in his Charging Bull Studio in Northern Liberties with a style that sought to mirror the studio magic employed by soul icons Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the album contains a number of gems that make it well worth seeking out.

Songs like “Wash Away” showcase Houston’s powerful vocals, while a cool modern medley of orchestration sparkles in the background. Listen closely and you’ll hear that Moka has plenty to say in the realm of political and social thought, too.

On “Still,” Moka breaks out its jazzy side and proves that it can excel in this realm, with splashing cymbals and some delicate keyboard playing.

“Dance With Me” is one of the album’s more rocking numbers, with an exotic backbeat and some truly solid guitar playing by McCall and the complement of Houston’s bold vocals.

And, while Time is Now does indeed capture the great musical vision of Moka, seeing the ensemble live is a whole other experience.

Houston is an animated presence who can’t help but enrapture the crowd with her fervent dancing and imploring vocals. And the boys, well, let’s just say that they get sucked into some pretty wild improvisational rock-outs that really take the Moka songs to a new level.

Later this spring, the band will embark on a European tour to show the folks on that side of the world what we already know: Philly Soul is alive and well, and it’s being given a new edge by Moka. - by Brian Rademaekers, The STAR

Mit ihrem Debüt Album „Time Is Now“ liefern uns die Gründer der Band, Pauline Housten und Robb McCall, ein abwechslungsreiches Studiowerk, welches nach eigenen Angaben unter den Einflüssen des klassischen Philly Soul steht.

Der Opener „Lies & Alibies“ spielt mit dunklen Keyboardklängen auf und liefert in dem Stück einen gleich bleibenden, stets treibenden Rhythmus. Mit dem folgenden, druckvollem Bass und der kräftigen Stimme von Pauline Housten, entwickelt der Song einen einprägsamen Groove, der vom musikalischen Grundgedanken her, in dem folgenden Titel „Peace“, stilvoll fortgesetzt wird.

Würde man aus der sehr beachtlichen Musikauswahl nur einen Titel auswählen, dann kommt man sicher nicht an Nr. 10 vorbei. „Unchain My Soul“ wird in den Medien zurrecht als das Album Highlight bezeichnet. Hier zeigt Pauline Housten dem Hörer mal richtig den „Dreck“ in ihrer Stimme. Eine wahrlich gewaltige Darbietung und hohe Gesangeskunst. Hinzu kommt noch ein im Hintergrund spielender Chor, der dem Song ein Gänsehautfeeling verpasst und ein unglaubliches Raumgefühl verleiht. Dieser Song ist rundum spektakulär.

Mit gekonnter Produktionsarbeit präsentiert sich das Album sehr präzise und differenziert. Die hohe Aufnahmequalität spricht für sich und somit punktet diese Produktion auch klanglich. Hier kommen Hifi Fans voll auf ihre Kosten!

In den Liedern werden politische und sozialkritische Nachrichten verarbeitet. So werden zum Beispiel die Nachwirkungen der Naturkatastrophe „Katrina“ oder die Gewalttätigkeit in den Strassen von Philadelphia thematisch aufgegriffen. Die Worte werden mal in coolen Grooves, warmen Philly Soul, kühlen Jazz und Funky Rhytmen transportiert.

Die enorme Bandbreite an Musik, die starke Lyrik, und nicht zuletzt die charismatische Stimme von Pauline Housten, verleihen diesem qualitativ hochwertigen Album eine Ausnahmestellung. Eine Kombination, deren Zeit gekommen ist. Time Is Now!

von Erich Rittig -

Moka est un groupe de musique soul composé de Pauline Houston au chant, Robb McCall à la guitare, Luis DiCupe aux percussions, Damon Bennett au clavier, Tone Whitfield à la basse et Jimmy Coleman aux tambours.

L'album Time is Now, issu du projet Moka a été réalisé en trois ans dans des studios à Philadephie, et traite de la société américaine.
De l'ouragan Katrina à la violence dans les villes tout y passe. L'apport parfois très électronique du clavier ne gène en rien l'atmosphère soul qui règne tout au long de cet album. La voix de la chanteuse Pauline Houston est envoutante et Robb McCall fait des merveilles à la guitare.

Moka revendique ses influences soul à 100%, que ce soit le son soul Motown, le son Stax, le son plus traditionnel de la scène de Philadelphie. Influencés également par des artistes tels que Marvin Gaye, Mahalia Jackson, Curtis Mayfield ou Gladdys Knight, l'album Time is Now est un album à écouter.

With the release of their debut album, Time Is Now, Moka has been rapidly drawing attention with their refreshing take on a classic Philly Soul sound. Their music hints at some political and social messages like the aftermath of Katrina and violence in Philadelphia, but then eases you down with a cool beat and warm, funky rhythms. The band was founded about 3 years ago by vocalist Pauline Houston and guitarist Robb McCall and further developed with the addition of Luis DiCupe on percussion, Damon Bennett on the keys, Tone Whitfield on bass, and Jimmy Coleman on drums. The full sound comes together to produce a unique combination of cool jazz, funky melodies, powerful lyrics, and a touch of latin beat to create a brand new type of Soul. Their album is for sale on CDBaby, Itunes, and Amazon so go check them out. Trust us, you wouldn't wanna miss these guys! -- Helen Leight, WXPN - Helen Leight, WXPN


"TIME IS NOW" is now available!
Track listing:

Lies & Alibis
Whole New Kind of Love
Raw Street
Take Me Down
Wash Away
Dance With Me
Unchain My Soul
Take Me Down (Reprise)
(Bonus tracks):
Still Static
Whole Nu Kinda Luv (CBMP Remix)
Still Dub

"Time is Now" represents a new generation of Philly Soul sound." -- Deesha Dyer, Philadelphia City Paper
In rotation on Soul Sanctuary radio show and Dusty Grooves, streaming on Rhapsody and eMusic.
Available internationally at CD Baby and iTunes.
Helen Leight's "Pick of the Day" on Philly's WXPN.



With a socially conscious edge, urban soul juggernaut MOKA
produces cool grooves and fluid sounds with strong songwriting
at its central core.

Sultry vocal powerhouse Pauline Houston presents a style that many attempt but few achieve, creating a new plateau for the new Soul movement. This is the real thing, taking you from smoky smooth ballads to edgy incantations of sistergirl soul. Guitarist/Producer Robb McCall lays out the luscious web of velvet sounds that beckons you with funky, fiery vibrations of rhythm and melody. Studio multi-instrumentalist McCall plays rhythm and lead guitar with
a fluid versatility and a uniquely emotional style.

MOKA's recordings feature McCall's innovative and exploratory production. Recorded and mixed at his Charging Bull Studio in Philadelphia,
his arrangements set the songs in alternate atmospheres which reveal
their true beauty and honesty.

MOKA's live show is a spectacle to behold and a genuine adventure.
Lie back and enjoy the ride that grooves you and feeds you,
swooning �Drink me! Smoke me!�

The MOKA sound is influenced by The Classic Philly Soul sound, the Motown Sound, the Stax/Volt Sound, Marvin Gaye, Mahalia Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight, Acid Jazz, Hip-Hop, Latin, Reggae and World Music.

MOKA is coming up from the roots...
brewing and blending a new sound for new times.