St. Maarten – The police interrupted a performance by 9-year-old DJ Ju5tin at the 3 Amigos Restaurant in Maho, twenty minutes after the kid started his show on Friday night at 11 p.m. Earlier the police had forbidden the pre-teen DJ, real name Justin Lopez, to perform at the Tantra nightclub because he is underage. The police action triggered outrage on social media.
Tantra’s General Manager Manny Almirakis reacted with disappointment to the police intervention. “The day before the show police told the promoters the kid cannot perform. I met with the police the next afternoon and they told me Justin is underage and not allowed to enter Tantra,”Almirakis wrote in a reaction to this newspaper. “I explained that Justin is not getting paid for this and that he does this as a hobby and for his charity because of his health issues. I said that he came from overseas to live out his dream, but they said the decision is coming from a higher authority and that if he plays they would shut down the establishment.”
Justin Lopez is a kid from Bethlehem, a town of 75,000 inhabitants in the State of Pennsylvania. He was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy called glycogen storage disease. This condition affects the liver, muscle strength and the ability to speak.
The boy’s father Dan, a bank manager, introduced his son to electronic music when he was still an infant. In the basement of his home he mixed songs on his computer – from bachata and merengue to salsa.
When Justin was five years old, he asked his father if he could give it a try. According to a report in a local newspaper, The Morning Call, Justin could “identify the folders in the mixing software, enabling him to play with the beats and the songs, even though he could not read. The boy had been paying attention to his father’s moves for so long that he knew where everything was on the board.”
Deejaying became a form of exercise for Justin – he cannot stop himself from dancing while he is behind the mixing board. The exercise helps in the battle against his medical condition.
After an appearance on the Spanish TV-show Despierta America, Justin’s star rose in the States and beyond. He performed at several venues, but his venture into St. Maarten fell flat on Friday evening due to the intervention of the police.
“I asked the police how they could stop this kid from living out his dream and playing from 10 to 12,” Almirakis says. “He did not play at Tantra on Friday, because I could not win this argument. When I told Justin and his parents that he could not perform at Tantra, the boy was very sad and he did not understand why St. Maarten did not want him to play.”
The promoters attempted an alternative and set up Justin at the nearby 3 Amigos Restaurant. After twenty minutes it was over when the police arrived to stop the show. “They said this was exploiting a minor,” Almirakis says. “How is having a hobby and having both parents with him exploiting a minor? I asked if it is okay for ladies to be topless at Sunset and have kids run around them all day. How is a 9-year-old kid that loves music and loves to deejay wrong?”
Almirakis said that the promoters of the show donated $1,000 to Justin’s charity and put up $1,600 for flights and another $200 for hotels as well as some money for promoting the event. “They end up losing $3,000. For some reason it seems apparently wrong for a kid to live out his dream. I am still trying to figure this out, but none of this makes sense.”
In spite of all the commotion and setbacks, DJ Ju5tin remained positive on his Facebook-page. “Thank you to everyone who showed me so much love in St. Maarten! I had a blast! Now it’s time to head back home,” he posted, in what is probably his farewell message to the Friendly Island.