Photo by Bill Lee


Artist. Producer. Educator | Connector of dots…

2024 Washington Award Winner- Music

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Grammy-nominated artist and Guggenheim Fellow, KOKAYI is more than just a performer – he’s a creative architect. Weaving spontaneous composition, storytelling, and genre-bending mastery, KOKAYI crafts impactful experiences that resonate across musical boundaries.

A sought-after collaborator and curator, KOKAYI champions under-recognized artistic movements, embraces technological revolutions, and thrives in unexpected creative spaces. His sonic alchemy has graced over 60 tracks, spanning jazz, hip-hop, rock, and R&B. He pushes boundaries with Grammy-nominated artists and even the Interledger Foundation on their FUTURE | Money arts initiative.

KOKAYI, the global griot, channels the spirit of the African storyteller through improvisation. He seamlessly blends freestyle with a jazz maestro’s feel, captivating audiences worldwide with spoken narratives that intertwine with instrumentalists or written works. He’s a wordsmith and emcee who’s shared the stage with renowned artists like Terri Lyne Carrington, Nate Smith, Steve Coleman, and Ambrose Akinmusire.

KOKAYI’s passion extends beyond the stage. He ignites creativity as faculty at the School of Improvisational Music, a collaborator and board member with OneBeat (an international arts program), and a U.S. State Department music emissary. He empowers the next generation providing mentorship with artists and via Grammy U, providing master classes via online platforms like 24/7 Artists and teaching university-level courses worldwide.

A champion for cultural exchange, KOKAYI has used hip-hop as a tool for conflict resolution, diplomacy and education in over 42 countries. He’s the Chief Ideator behind BeatsnBeans, a platform sparking conversations on creativity and reimagining artistic spaces. Recognized with prestigious fellowships and grants, KOKAYI has held residencies and leadership positions within the Recording Academy. He’s a tireless advocate for creators’ rights and a champion for D.C.’s indigenous music, spearheading the codification of Go-Go as a recognized genre.

KOKAYI’s work is a tapestry woven from his life experiences, filtered through the vibrant culture of Washington D.C., the energy of Go-Go, and the rich heritage of the African diaspora. He is the embodiment of where innovation meets impact.