Freestyle: JookBox City plays it cool

Jun. 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Aaron Friedman, Kahnma K, Rawnie Lovely and Amos Zollo of JookBox City (Courtesy photo)

Aaron Friedman, Kahnma K, Rawnie Lovely and Amos Zollo of JookBox City. (Courtesy photo)


Last week was so full of good vibes that I still haven’t fully recovered — not that I’d want to lose all the joy I gathered witnessing primo performances by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Neon Trees, Santigold and Damian Marley.

This week, I’m looking forward to a show with hometown style, which also promises good vibes and good times, as reggae-pop band JookBox City celebrates the video premiere of its radio-friendly single, “Wishing Well.”

JookBox City Video Premiere Party

Hosted by Jovan “Phat Joe” Ladao, with DJ Coop D’Ville

» Where: Bar 35, 35 N Hotel St.
» When: 9 p.m. Saturday, June 22
» Cost: $5
» Info: 537-3535

The video premiere is another step up in the rise of this relatively new reggae/soul/funk/dance band from a pickup group to a popular draw, containing two members who recently became engaged (officially) to each other.

And what’s cool about that engagement is the Pulse captured the all the action as frontman/keyboardist Rawnie Lovely popped the question to singer Kahnma K on stage during a showcase at theVenue called, appropriately, “Epiphany.”

I asked Lovely about that night when he called me earlier this week.

“That was incredible,” he said.

The two musicians have known each other for years, but now are “connected all the way,” as Lovely puts it — musically and personally.

“When we write songs together, write hooks together, it’s chicken skin, there’s nothing like it.” he said.

Bass player Aaron Friedman and drummer Amos Zollo, both versatile musicians, round out the band.

JookBox City's Rawnie Lovely proposed to bandmate Kahnma K at theVenue earlier this month, and the Pulse was there to capture the action. Click on the image for a larger version. (Star-Advertiser File)

JookBox City’s Rawnie Lovely proposed to bandmate Kahnma K at theVenue earlier this month, and the Pulse was there to capture the action; click on the image for a larger version. (Star-Advertiser File)

YOU CAN read the story of the video shoot on the band’s own blog at, but the quick version is that Lovely built a prop wishing well from bricks and mortar for a Tantalus video shoot on a beautiful sunny day — and then the day of the shoot, it was voggy, rainy, with flash-flood warnings.

“We were trying to shoot and it kept raining on the camera. … It was a ragtag ensemble,” he said. “But it ended up working out.”

The video, full of quick cuts and cameos by “Boxvillians,” as the band calls its fans, captures JookBox City’s upbeat spirit. “Wishing Well” is a reggae song about rising above hassles, lightened by Kahnma K’s high, angelic voice.

The finished project is definitly not gloomy, despite the rain.

“It boosted everybody’s spirits in a way,” Lovely said.

The well is still up on Tantalus, by the way – “the first official piece of memorabilia for JookBox City,” Lovely said, laughing.

THE BAR 35 show has a “backstory,” he relates: “Our first performance together was at Bar 35 — we played this medley of Bob Marley and the Wailers … it goes into Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. I put it together with me and Kahnma K’s vocal style in mind.”

With this performance, “It’s coming full circle,” he said. “It’s something spiritual for us, too. Look how far we’ve come.”

At Saturday’s show, the band will do a set of originals and premiere “Wishing Well,” take a break for some dancing with DJ Coop D’Ville and return for a second set of “powerhour mixtape madness. Everybody’s favorite song jammed into a smorgasboard cornucopia,” Lovely said. Often with a reggae rhythm.

My informant Gina Baurile, who does promotion for Bar 35, describes the band’s live show as “mixtape club favorites with a reggae twist” from artists such as Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Prince.

Listen for songs put together on a theme, like the “Breakup Medley” which winds up with a Sheryl Crow/Kid Rock song that has a couple reunited.

“We want to present that whole style of playing that we have,” Lovely said.

The band has built a residency at Kemoo Farms Pub, where management has received them enthusiastically, and play a couple times a month. They broke into Surfer, the Bar last week.

“True fans, that’s what we really want,” said Lovely. “We want them to see how Boxvillians get down.”
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at, follow her on Twitter and find past Freestyle blogs here.

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