Ronnie Kwon, former longtime owner of Dynamite Records and colorful local disc jockey, dies at 38
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Former Dynamite Records owner Ronnie Kwon was known for playing music on the sidealk during the city's annaul Sidewalk Sales. Here he is shown in 2007. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — A memorial for Ronnie Kwon, a former longtime city business owner and colorful local disc jockey who once said he sees DJs as musical artists in their own right, is set for Sunday in Queens, N.Y.
Kwon, who went by the stage name DJ Kwonsoul, died Thursday of a brain aneurysm at the age of 38, according to several posts on Facebook.
In interview with the Gazette a decade ago, Kwon said he sought to break down the barriers between DJs and audiences and the mystique of the DJ, he said.
“A good DJ knows and can read the audience,” Kwon told the newspaper.
His death in New York, where he had moved about two weeks ago, stunned friends in the Northampton area, where he lived for many years. He was both the owner of the former Dynamite Records and a popular DJ in the local music scene.
The memorial will be held Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Korean Church of Queens, according to a post on Kwon’s Facebook page left by a person named Crystal Kwon. Attempts to verify the memorial with the church were not successful Monday.
Word of his death travelled quickly in Northampton circles over the weekend.
“He was a good buddy of mine,” attorney Jesse Adams, a Northampton city councilor, said in a telephone interview Sunday. “He was a really, really nice guy. I couldn’t believe it.”
Adams said he befriended Kwon when the two were skateboarding in the 1990s.
“He just treated everybody well,” Adams said. “This was a guy who every time I saw him always had something nice to say.”
Kwon studied at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he was a disc jockey and later a music programmer at WMUA radio, according to those who knew him.
Kwon worked as a disc jockey in local clubs, most recently at places like Hinge and Bishop’s Lounge in Northampton. But he was perhaps best known as the owner of Dynamite Records, which at the time of its closing on Main Street in 2009, was said to have been the longest-running independent record store in western Massachusetts. Kwon had acquired the business from co-founders Pliny Stebbins and Mike Rosentretter, who was a former owner of The White Light records store in Amherst.
Marjorie Britton of Southampton recalled how Kwon had come into Viva Fresh Pasta in Northampton where she works only two weeks ago with some friends, the day he was moving to New York, she said.
“It’s kind of hard for all of us,” Britton said. She said she got to know Kwon through Northampton’s downtown restaurant and entertainment scene.
“He was a great guy. None of us at all expected this,” Britton said.