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Dinan Kapuge – a young singing star from New York

By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna

Today on Little Stars, the spotlight is on a young star far away from his mother nation. His talents were brought to attention by Boston Lanka, a Sri Lankan media network based in the US. This young star, Dinan Kapuge, a budding musician who has excelled in piano, guitar, and drums, says his passion for singing was sparked by playing these instruments. He also plays the Sri Lankan traditional geta beraya. Currently living in New York, he dreams of coming to live in Sri Lanka one day.

Dinan, tell us about yourself.

My full name is Dinan Nipun Tharuka Kapuge, as given by my family. My first and middle names represent my older sisters – Dinan for Dilmi, my second oldest sister; Nipun for Nipuni, my oldest sister; and Tharuka for Tharushi, my youngest older sister. My last name Kapuge was passed on to me with generations to come. My loving parents are Wijitha Duminda Kapuge, my dad, and Diluka Kapuge, my mom. I attend Police Officer Rocco Laurie Intermediate School 72. My hobbies consist of playing my instruments, singing, drawing, and playing video games. I also play sports such as track and field as well as swimming.

Tell us more about your life in New York for our readers in Sri Lanka.

My hometown New York, also known as the “Big Apple”, gets together to sing, to go to temple events, and to have a fun time at family functions.

We recently came across some of the songs you have done with Boston Lanka Radio. Since when do you sing?

I started singing when I was very young; however, I got into singing when I was around seven or eight years old. I have been performing for “Ranga Tharanga” since 2014, which is an event that happens in Northeast America for Sri Lankan children, organised by the Staten Island Buddhist Vihara yearly, except for 2020 because of the pandemic.

What musical instruments do you play?

Playing instruments struck my desire for singing. I play instruments such as the piano, guitar, and drums. I’ve been playing the drums since I was nine years old in elementary school, when I was in the school band and the school’s jazz band. I also played traditional Sri Lankan drums like the “geta bera”, taught by Uthpala Eroshan, which I had to be put on pause due to the amount of work I have. However, I would like to start again at some point.

Do you have any special instructors or trainers for music?

I have an instructor/trainer for music, who amplifies my vocal cords. My music teacher at my elementary school, Mrs. Caccase, taught me the fundamentals of music when I was in the Third Grade. She was an amazing teacher who taught me the basics. Later on, I also had a very nice guitar teacher, Uncle Vimal Fernando, who sparked my interest in Sri Lankan music. He is the one who found out that I had a talent for singing Sinhala songs and exposed me to various opportunities.

Later on, I was extremely lucky to meet a very inspirational Sri Lankan legend named Rookantha Gunathilaka. Even though we had such a very short time, he taught me how to extend my range when it comes to my vocals, how to play the piano, and how to sing western and Sri Lankan music. Ever since Uncle Rookantha left for Sri Lanka, Uncle Namal Hanarasinghe, a former keyboard player at “Superstars” (a leading band in Sri Lanka), has been coaching me. He has supported my singing from the start until now.

I am so thankful for what all my teachers have done for me. Even though my dad isn’t a teacher, he has helped me by practising with me at home and has been the biggest critic if I made any mistake.

Have you been to Sri Lanka? How do you feel when you think of Sri Lanka?

When I was only two years old, I was introduced to an exotic island called Sri Lanka. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my 13 years. I remember seeing the beautiful sights of Sri Lanka such as the Sigiriya Fortress, Yala National Park, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, and other places. However, one major place I remember like it was yesterday is Pelmadulla, the place I call home. When I would visit my grandparents, I would later get in the back of my grandfather’s truck and pay a visit to my great-grandparents. They were always thrilled to see me and treated me like a king.

I don’t remember much because I was only two-and-a-half years old and left for the US when I was five years old. I feel very proud when I think about our country and I feel very connected to my ancestors. As the years go on, I might even live in Sri Lanka when I grow up. I do miss Sri Lanka and hope to go back soon.

You lead a very active and balanced life, engaged in music and a lot of sports and also performing well in school. Can you tell us more about the sports you play?

When I was able to participate in sports and other activities when there was no pandemic, I did track and field, and swimming. I also used to do a form of martial arts called “kudo”, which I stopped after earning the blue belt. These three sports helped me to be more social and less scared of what people think of me. Participating in sports helped me build up my skills such as leadership, working with others, learning, and patience…and especially to deal with my three older sisters at home. Also, volunteering to sing at the senior centre; the joy on their faces and the endless amount of kisses fulfils my heart.

How do you manage your time to do all these things?

A key to being a successful individual is time management. Being active in every aspect helps me as a person. I make sure I’m at the top of my classes when it comes to studies, along with extracurricular activities, sports, music classes, and even having a blast with my friends!

Tell us more about some of your memorable achievements?

Some memorable achievements I have earned are the music award, reading award, and a certificate for being the best all-around student at my fifth-grade graduation. Another memorable achievement was winning my school talent show this year with more than 6,000 kids on board, and I’m so happy and proud.

What is your ambition?

Being a neurologist is a career path that has interested me ever since I was able to read. Brain surgeons have vast amounts of studies, anatomy, functions, and disorders that are associated with the nerves and the brain of the human body to learn. I want to find a way to prevent some brain illnesses or ways to improve the treatments.

Who is supporting your dreams?

Growing up, I had many supporters. However, my number one supporters have always been my family. My parents play a huge role in making me who I am today and who I am becoming. My sisters are always the ones to scream with enthusiasm through the audience, saying “GO MALLI!”

I had an astounding fusion band group called “Araliya” based in NY. Even though I’m a Buddhist, Father Nalaka Silva with open arms gave me so many opportunities to participate in most of the Catholic events. I can’t forget Uncle Sugath Fernando and Auntie Premila Ekanayake for the loads of support. I will forever appreciate their countless years of support.