Seattle reggae band Kore Ionz's heart is in the community, having been a regular at fundraisers, community centers and the King County Juvenile Detention Center. Their next show is with Publish The Quest, Old Dockton and DJ Million at the Nectar Lounge.
Their members’ homelands span the globe — from Hawaii, the Virgin Islands and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
But their heart is in one place.
“I believe everybody that has the power of the microphone … has the potential to brainwash, but also the potential to change society for the better, especially the youth,” said Daniel Pak, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Seattle band Kore Ionz.
Last week, the reggae band took that message of hope to kids detained at the King County Juvenile Detention Center for a free concert.
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Dressed in matching navy-blue uniforms and orange plastic slippers, the inmates filed into the detention-center gym, where the walls bore posters with such messages as: “Life is not a game, once it’s over there is no rest.”
The boys followed each other in a single line, their heads were down, hands folded behind their banks. Guards flanked every side, as the youths were ordered to sit down in rows for the show.
But once Kore Ionz started playing, the mood of the room changed. Heads perked up, bobbing to the reggae beat. Then bodies swayed, hands waving to the rhythm, dancing without standing, following the order to remain seated. Even the guards were jigging.
“I came to the gym depressed. I got a lot of stuff on my mind,” said J.G., a teen with messy braids. (The paper is not identifying the center’s detainees since they are all juveniles.) “But this just made me happy. … I hope to listen to them when I’m outs and go to a concert.”
To the crowd ages 12 to 17, Pak yelled out, “We believe in you. That’s why we’re here.”
Concerts are a rarity for the inmates. The only other music they get is at church.
“In here, music is a big thing for us,” said another boy, initialed B.J., a baby-face teen with bright blue eyes. Kore Ionz is “a lot more relaxing than the rap I usually listen to. … I feel motivated. I feel good.”
The Seattle reggae band is also a regular at fundraisers and community centers. Half of their proceeds go to The Service Board, a nonprofit that offers life-changing programs for marginalized youth in Seattle. And all this generosity comes from a band $7,000 in debt from producing their last album independently.
It’s as if the band has a higher purpose, said percussionist Paul Huppler. Growing up, he was causing a lot of trouble, too, but his participation in music saved him from being locked up.
“I hope to return the favor by being here,” Huppler said about the band’s detention-center performance.
The message of the music is based on Pak’s insights (one example: “When you fall down, you fall forward). And their smooth beats and joyful lyrics are inspired by Bob Marley — fitting, as last month at Neumo’s, they opened for the Original Wailers, which includes members of Marley’s onetime band. And since the families of Kore Ionz are spread worldwide, Kore Ionz’s music is not only played in Seattle but can be heard in Bosnia and the Virgin Islands.
The creation of Kore Ionz is a story of musicians — who met through friends of friends and impromptu jam sessions — finding harmony despite disparate backgrounds.
Besides hailing from hometowns clear across the world, their ages span three decades, with jobs that range from Microsoft project manager to farmer.
And each of the seven members expresses the beat in their own way. Drummer Huppler lays down the foundation, while congo players Ahkeenu Musa and Teo Shantz provide low-end tribal rhythms and accented beats.
Bouncing in the foreground is bassist Brendan De Melle, while rocking left to right is lead guitarist Nermin Osmanovic. The 32-year-old Osmanovic is tireless; in one day, he will ping from a pinball tournament, to rehearsal, to kite surfing, to work. He grew up in war-torn Bosnia and he doesn’t take life for granted. “Every note he plays is like his last,” said lead singer Pak.
At 51, vocalist/keyboardist Carliss Hema Pereira is the oldest. Pereira, who is a farmer, is also the jokester and the de facto leader of the group.
Finally, lead singer Pak serves as the nucleus, bringing a sense of “ohana,” or family, from his native Hawaii, to the group. The 28-year-old teaches at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and mentors a Filipino reggae band made up of high-schoolers. Congo player Musa describes Pak as someone who always see the glass full, as a “youth crusader.”
“That is the battle of our lives, to change the negative to the positive,” said Pak.
Which is how they formed their name, Kore Ionz.
There are negative and positive ions, explains Pak. They are often at odds with each other, that is, until they bond together — like sodium and chloride coming together in their chaos to create something positive: salt.
“When folks ask me what I do, I tell them that I am a farmer,” said Pak. “I plant seeds among the youth and hopefully they will grow.”
That was certainly the case for the youths at the detention center, who left with smiles, holding the albums Pak gave away for free.
“I hope they make it big,” said Unna Kim, King County Juvenile Division recreation coordinator. “They have a big heart.”
Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or firstname.lastname@example.org