Born in Paris, France and raised in Mali and Senegal, West Africa, Pascal Bokar had a chance growing up to hear the musical, harmonic, melodic, rhythmic, dance and spoken words traditions of West African music and culture that informed his heritage through the musical legacies of instruments such as the Ngoni (banjo) or balafon (ancestor of xylophone) which will later define the early cultural and musical foundations of the American South through the migrations of West Africans through the Atlantic Slave Trade (1550-1888).
Throughout his productive musical career, guitarist/vocalist Dr. Pascal Bokar Thiam has always understood the connections between West African music and the sounds of the American South. His landmark book "From Timbuktu to the Mississippi Delta” with a foreword by NEA Jazz Master, Composer, Pianist Randy Weston, discusses the music of the three empires that dominated the culture of West Africa starting in the 6th century, tracing the music from its role in the culture and daily life of Africa to its eventual emergence in the United States. In his teachings, lectures and music (where he displays his own individual voice), Pascal has consistently paid tribute to his ancestors. “As a musician, I have always tried to synthesize the convergence of African esthetics and appreciate their influence in the music of the African American communities of the American South, from the rural sounds of the Blues and Gospel into this music we call Jazz.”
Pascal Bokar’s CD "American Shores", in the “AfroBlueGrazz” style coined by the album’s producer Greg Landau, was an ambitious fusion of textures and styles that comes from Bokar’s unique cultural perspective and paved the way for the new CD entitled “American Trails”.
As an accomplished jazz guitarist and scholar of African music and Jazz he consistently heard clear examples of African musical concepts and instruments throughout his musical explorations. In both projects he brought together accomplished musicians from Appalachia’s bluegrass style with Senegalese master drummers, African-American Rhythm and Blues singers, funky keyboards, and the stomp/clap percussion of a gospel choir. This eclectic cross cultural mix brings together long lost musical relatives as a platform for Pascal’s rich guitar and vocal improvisation. Pascal Bokar is the Father of the “AfroBlueGrazz” sound.
Pascal Bokar studied at the National School of Arts in Dakar, Senegal and at the National Conservatory of Nice, France where he started working professionally with reedman Barney Wilen. In 1983, Pascal attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA USA where he received the Jim Hall Jazz Master Award for Guitarists. He performed with Jazz Greats Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, Donald Bailey, Donald Brown etc…he is the recipient of the Outstanding Jazz Soloist Award presented by Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody. In 1999, he received his Master’s Degree from Cambridge College, Massachusetts, USA and in 2006 received his Doctoral Degree Summa Cum Laude from the Graduate School of Education of the University of San Francisco, CA USA. He is currently faculty in charge of Jazz Studies in the Performing Arts and Social Justice Department of the University of San Francisco, CA. USA. He is also the owner of the award winning Savanna Jazz Club of San Carlos, CA USA.
Pascal Bokar previous recording "Guitar Balafonics" was selected by Downbeat Magazine as one of the “Best CDs of 2015.”and received a 4 star review. Pascal Bokar is listed in Jazz journalist Scott Yanov’s Book entitled "Great Jazz Guitars" published by Hal Leonard.
Pascal Bokar has been a headliner at more than 50 Jazz festivals nationwide and has performed in Europe and Japan.
Notable musicians on "American Shores" and "American Trails" include: fiddler Blaine Sprouse (Bill Monroe, Alabama), bassist Tony Saunders (Eric Clapton & David Crosby, Gospel Hawkins Family), keyboardists Steve Carter (George Benson & Bobby Womack), Nate Ginsberg (Herbie Hancock, Larry Graham), percussionist Idrissa Gueye (Doudou Ndiaye Rose, Ballets of Senegal).
Beyond the Blue Sky – 1994 – Sugo Music
Yone Bi - Sugo Music
Guitar Balafonics – Sugo Music - Downbeat “Best CD of 2015” Award
American Shores – 2017 – Savanna Jazz Records
American Trails - 2019 - Savanna Jazz Records
1983 - Recipient of the Jim Hall Jazz Master Award for Guitarists from the Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA.
1984 - Recipient of the “Outstanding Jazz Soloist” Award by Dizzy Gillespie and James Moody
2006 – Recipient of the “Outstanding Dissertation Award”, university of San Francisco, Education Department
2013 - Pascal Bokar is listed in Jazz journalist Scott Yanov’s Book entitled “Great Jazz Guitars” p25.
2015 – Recipient DownBeat “Best CD of 2015” Pascal Bokar's CD, “Guitar Balafonics”, Sugo Music -
Owner of Savanna Jazz. Voted “Best Venue” from DownBeat Magazine 2016, 2017 & 2018