Social Encore: Kore Ionz returns to Hawaii
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
The first music video Seattle-based reggae band Kore Ionz released on YouTube was “First Avenue” featuring Prometheus Brown. Lead singer Daniel Pak conceptualized the storyline on a flight back to Seattle from Hawaii. After being away from the islands for a few years, the band returns to the state that inspired many songs for their new album for a show at NextDoor on Friday, Nov. 8.
Pak was born and raised in Hawaii. Of Korean and Japanese decent, his family’s Hawaii roots go back to 1898 when they immigrated to Hawaii to work on a pineapple plantation. Using inspiration from his roots and an intimate conversation with his Korean grandmother, Pak developed the visuals for “First Avenue.”
» Where: NextDoor, 43 N. Hotel St.
After graduating from ‘Iolani, he continued his education at the University of Washington where he met band keyboard player and Punahou graduate, Kylie Sulivan. Sulivan and Pak started playing together and began to assemble their seven-member band through community service work and mutual friends. In 2005, Pak started volunteering with Seattle’s youth through an organization called The Service Board, which helps under privileged kids by mentoring them and exposing them to outdoor sports and community service.
Through The Service Board, the two Hawaii boys met their drummer, Teo Shantz. Shantz comes from a family line of steel drummers. Growing up, he and his family toured to countries like Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago. By the time Shantz was a teenager, he was a professional musician.
Shantz later introduced jazz trumpet player Owuor Arunga to the band. Arunga has played with some of best such as Macklemore, The Physics and Black Stax. Born in Kenya, he tuned his sounds while living in New York. The band’s percussion player, Ahkeenu Musa, was also introduced to the group through The Service Board after working with Pak. Shantz then introduced bass player Lennox Holeness, who was born in Jamaica but raised in New York and London. Last but not least, Arunga brought on saxophone player Darian Asplund.
The diverse sounds and messages of Kore Ionz is a deep reflection of the diverse backgrounds of its members. The family bond the band has is founded on music, but what also makes this band different is their determination to spread positivity through community work. The band recently did a show for non-profit API Chaya, an organization that helps spread awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking amongst Asian Americans, refugees and immigrants.
With music comes different messages. Pak said the band’s name stands for what they believe in while incorporating parts of life.
“In life, you have the negative and the positive just like ions,” he said. “The only time that an ion can create a core bond is when a negative and positive come together.”
Using the common grounds of collaboration, Pak said you can’t avoid the negative in life and that you have to work with it whether it is regarding working with people or a system. The common goal is to work towards change.
“We see either see love or we see fear. So you can either rule people with love or you can rule people with fear,” he said. “That’s the message that we are trying to send out; you have to come with love even in the face of fear.”
The last time Kore Ionz visited the islands was in 2011 when they performed at the now closed Tropics Cafe. Perpetuating the Aloha spirit and their cultural roots, the band will film two music videos while they are here. During their flight from Seattle to Hawaii, they plan to capture one last scene to conclude the first music video and use the backdrop of the islands as a transition to the next video, “Feel Good.”
“The fact that we can go back home and creatively and visually capture that essence then putting it out on YouTube allows the public to see another part of who we are,” said Pak.
“Feel Good” will use the country side of Kaneohe Bay and will include Pak’s nostalgic childhood hangouts. He said that the song stemmed from a gloomy night in Seattle after coming home from a gig. Yearning for the warm paradise of Hawaii, he sat in his car, took out his phone and started writing. Trying to obtain the feelings he had for Hawaii, he imagined Hawaii as a girl he missed.
Using music as a forum to relate to people, Pak shared what inspired two other songs on the new album due out early next year. “Star Ship” is an upbeat song he wrote for his son with a message that anything is possible.
“Elevator” was inspired when he was at the University of Washington opening up for hip-hop artist Common. Pak had forgotten something in his car and rode an elevator with a school employee, who told him what he called her entire life story and how she couldn’t wait to retire. That made him reflect on the decision that he made when he was a recent engineer graduate. Looking for more meaning to life and looking for fulfillment, Pak decided to turn down a wealthy engineering job in order to pursue his passion for music. The song’s message is to not be afraid to take the path less taken because if you don’t make the most of the life that you have, the possibilities of your life will pass you by.
Pak said Hawaii brings a sense of belonging and wants the band’s upcoming Hawaii performance to bring all sorts of people together and united as one ohana.
“I want them to walk away with the feeling of love,” he said. “And at the same time, I want them to walk away thinking that things can be different. I want a better future for tomorrow and I know that one person can’t do it by themselves, it takes a whole movement of people but everyone has to kokua.”
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.