Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
Dennis Alcapone shares August 6 birthday with Jamaica
It was indeed a sweet 16 for award-winning Jamaican entertainer Dennis Alcapone. A sweet 16, indeed. Born Dennis Smith on August 6, 1946, little did he know that his beloved Jamaica would gain her Independence on his 16th birthday.
"They chose my birthday for Independence because I was there before them," he said, laughing.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that my country would come to celebrate her birthday the same as mine. It was a big coincidence but a good one. It was a wonderful feeling when I first heard the news, and from that day Jamaica and I have been celebrating our birthday together."
MOST GLORIOUS MOMENT
Alcapone remembered that day as if it were yesterday. To him, it was the most glorious moment on earth.
"I was living on Waltham Park Road (St Andrew) at the time and there were street dances everywhere. I remember Derrick Morgan's Forward March was playing all day as people up and down celebrated. The sound systems were playing all the songs of the day and we were dancing away," Alcapone shared with The Sunday Gleaner from his home in Plaistow, East London, England.
"We had this big dancehall on Waltham Park Road called 28A Dancehall, and later that night that's where we celebrated our Independence and my birthday in style. It was a really lovely celebration, I could not have asked for a better birthday."
Alcapone launched his entertainment career in 1968 as co-operator of the El Paso sound system, later moving on to becoming an international DJ. He has worked with the island's leading producers, recording more than 100 singles and compiling nine albums.
During his 44-year career, the veteran earned a number of awards, including DJ of the Year and a Lifetime Achievement Award, and is famous for songs such as Mosquito One, Teach The Children, Love Is Not A Gamble and Number One Station, among several others.
Evolving through Jamaica's music genres from ska to reggae, Alcapone noted that the development of the music industry over the last 50 years has been great, unearthing the country's natural talent and allowing it to excel on the international stage.
"Jamaica is an extremely talented place and the world has seen so much of that talent coming to light over the years. Outside of the negative elements that have stained our musical culture, we have done ourselves proud and we are loved all over the world for that," he declared.
After spending several years touring the world, particularly Europe, Alcapone migrated to England in 1976, returning to Jamaica on a regular basis.
The entertainer said he was proud to see how far Jamaica had come in terms of development in a number of critical areas, but saddened by the fact that crime and violence had risen out of control.
"Before Independence we didn't have so much violence in Jamaica, you could walk anywhere, anytime. Now you have to be careful where you go. It is very sad to know that crime in Jamaica has reached this stage," he noted.
Alcapone is hoping that Jamaica will return to the days when people felt safe to walk the streets at will.
"We used to go watch triple bill movies in the night and if bus leave us we would walk home from downtown or Cross Roads to Waltham Park Road and didn't have any fear at all. We didn't have any garrison thing either, where you couldn't go to this area or that area. That didn't exist at all," he stated.
"Back in the day, Jamaicans migrated with the aim to earn money abroad and return home to live a better life, but so many persons I know are afraid to return home because of the crime and violence. I know a lot of them don't want to still be living abroad but when they think about returning home they become so fearful. I personally know persons who decided to take the chance and return home and lost their lives. The reality is that returning residents are often targeted, and that is unfortunate. Nowadays, youths seem so heartless and that is very troubling."
Alcapone said he personally has never had a problem when he comes to Jamaica.
"Freedom is everything to a man, it is the most important thing to him, and once he feels that that freedom is threatened then he becomes fearful. If you can't walk freely in your own country then there is no freedom. We need to get back to those early days," he said.
A busy European tour schedule kept Alcapone away from the grand 50th celebrations in Jamaica, but with all the celebrations that took place around the world, he had a grand time.
"Touring the world for all these years, I can tell you that Jamaica is one of the most loved places on this earth. Not because of yam, banana and dumpling, but because of our talent, our music, our artistes, our culture, our athletes like Usain Bolt. If some negative elements would only behave themselves and clean up their act then Jamaica would be one of the best countries in the world," declared the veteran entertainer.