A printer by trade and a painter by day, Thomas Poki is paying for his summer holiday at Mahia with music.

That was the way it was for the 44-year-old from Porirua as he stepped into the hum of the Napier CBD and began singing.

"He's very good," said one shop owner across the road, lamenting it was not usually like that.

"There's one guy who screams, and he's only got five songs," she said.


But Thomas Poki, with a solid repertoire of country-to-rock, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Kenny Rogers, a bit of Rag 'n Bone, Michael Jackson and the like, was something different.

Fully acoustic with an Ashton guitar worth $600 or $700 bought on special at $129 four years ago, and a beat-box doubling as a seat and to be drummed with only soft-heeled shoes to avoid kicking it in.

The quality is unmistakable, as shown by the notes and coinage in the open guitar case at his feet as the punters demonstrate their approval early in the afternoon of the last public holiday of the festive season.

As it happens, it's been endorsed globally, one punter's video post online late last year getting three-quarters of a million views.

As Emerson St continues its busy holiday season, there's a key to this acclaim, when it's clear the performer is enjoying it as much he hopes the punters on the street are.

The guitar, he says is his "best friend", before adding that, of course, his best friends are his wife up the street shopping, the 9-year-old son with her, and the older son who has returned to Wellington.

On his way for four days with whanau at Mahia, he comes down from Rogers' Coward of the County and is asked: "Will it pay for the holiday?"

Simple and spontaneous answer is "Yes!", even though most of the punters probably haven't realised what they're getting.

Thomas Poki also does one-man gigs, with all the amplifiers, speakers and accessories of the modern musician, at weddings and other occasions.

"I do everything," he says. "All today's music, 1970s, 1980s ..."

It comes in handy at Christmas and New Year - last weekend he and the whanau had four days at The Chateau on Ruapehu, where he was among the entertainment on New Year's Eve.

But it ain't for the money and the lifestyle. It's the music. "I love it," he says.