Few people had heard of Gyptian prior the 2005 release of his mega hit Serious Times, but the song’s meditative drumming by renowned percussionist Bongo Herman, melodious sax lines courtesy of Tony Greene and especially Gyptian’s heartfelt vocals detailing worsening crime in Jamaica made it one of the biggest reggae hits of 2005/2006. Serious Times went on to top all major Jamaican and international reggae charts. Vibe Magazine ranked it number 21 among the top 60 songs of 2006 and Gyptian was nominated as Best New Reggae Artist and named the Most Promising Entertainer at the 2006 International Reggae and World Music Awards held at New York City’s legendary Apollo Theater. At home, Gyptian was cited as the Best New Artist of 2005 by the Jamaica Observer newspaper, and Serious Times tied with Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock for the daily’s Song of the Year honors.
“A lot of people said I would be a one hit wonder, but I never thought that,” Gyptian reflected on his sudden rise to success. “I never go into the studio and tell myself that I will get a number one song. I love every song that I sing, but it’s the people who judge them and make them hits.” Gyptian quickly dismissed any notions of impending one hit wonder status by following his impressive introductory single with several equally compelling tunes including Beng Beng, which calls for peace in Jamaica, School Girl, urging young girls to pay attention to their education and Ma Ma, a tender tribute to his mother’s love. Another hit Beautiful Lady wryly tells the tale of a brief romantic encounter; throughout the song’s irresistible refrain, the lady asks him his name and his response was adapted for the title of his debut album, My Name is Gyptian, which was released on VP Records in 2006 to widespread critical commendation and subsequently received a nomination from Playboy Magazine as best New World Music Album.
Gyptian surpasses the standards established on his remarkable debut with his inspiring sophomore effort I Can Feel Your Pain. From the unforgettably beautiful title track (the CD’s first single) which he wrote as a balm to broken hearted ladies everywhere to the roots rock reggae sufferers anthem Nobody No Cry, from the acoustic guitar strains underscoring an antiviolence message on Keep Your Calm to the soft rock riffs that tint the quixotic Touch, Pain’s thirteen songs offer sophisticated yet straight from the heart lyrics with Gyptian’s pliant tenor, easily adapting to a range of styles. “With music you can’t just stick to one sound, you have to pick and choose to satisfy the largest fan base,” he says. “Some people love the cultural side of Gyptian but for the girls it’s all about lovers rock, because everybody needs love and everyone needs to share love and I am fortunate that I can share it on this CD.”
Born Windel Beneto Edwards on October 25, 1983, Gyptian was raised in the rural King Weston district in the parish of St. Andrew by his Christian mother Pauline and his Rastafarian father, Basil. Neither parent attempted to dictate their son’s spiritual path, but both encouraged his musical talent; thus Gyptian sang at his mother’s Sunday morning church services and at the Saturday night dances promoted by his father who owned the Sugar Stone sound system.
Gyptian, who earned his nickname for his habit of wrapping shirts around his head in the style of an Egyptian pharaoh, continued to sharpen his vocal skills at small concerts within the greater St. Andrew vicinity. His musical ambitions brought him to reggae’s epicenter, Kingston, where he was introduced to legendary guitarist/producer Earl “Chinna” Smith whose stellar resume includes an extended stint as musical director for Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers. “Chinna was the first real producer I worked with,” notes Gyptian. “He has a great understanding of music and it was great working with him.” Together they created a version of Serious Times in 1999, which was never released.
Gyptian returned to King Weston and took some time away from music but before long, he was referred to a studio owned by producer/talent scout Ravin Wong, located in the Kingston suburb of Portmore. Wong had established a track record of helping to transform aspirants such as Portmore based I Wayne into hit making artists. Under Wong’s guidance Gyptian began performing at various stage shows and talent contests. He won the 2004 Portmore Star Search competition, which earned him a spot at that year’s staging of Sting, Jamaica’s premier dancehall concert which is renowned for attracting an audience that, when warranted, boldly expresses their displeasure with an artist’s performance first through “wipers” (a hand signal to artists to exit the stage), then booing and in extreme cases, bottling, that is, throwing bottles, cups or other objects at an unwanted act. So how did a newcomer to the reggae business feel about performing for such a tough crowd? “To be frank, I wondered what I was doing there,” Gyptian laughed. “It was difficult. I knew a wouldn’t get a forward (rousing response) from the crowd but from a long time music is what me love so me just struggle through it.”
A few months later, Gyptian was working a construction job when Portmore producer Kenneth 'Spragga' Wilson asked him to take a day off to voice Serious Time. Gyptian was never paid for that session because Spragga funds were depleted by the cost of the studio time, but the song’s subsequent popularity, which led to Gyptian’s inclusion on all major stage shows in Jamaica as well as many international reggae festivals, more than made up for it.
Gyptian plans to transcend the success reaped by Serious Time and his debut album with I Can Feel Your Pain. His spectacular sophomore effort begins with Keep Your Calm, a warning to the rude boys to put down their guns and aspire to greater things, produced by Kemar “DJ FLava” McGregor. DJ Flava, who produced Gyptian’s 2006 hit Ma Ma and is one of the leading producers in contemporary roots reggae, contributes several songs here including the cautionary one drop tune Too Bad Mind, the evocative drum and bass driven plea for More Love, and Guide Me, a prayer for spiritual strength underscored by a stirring Nyabinghi drum beat.
Gyptian’s romantic vocals captivate throughout the soulful, new age-influenced ballads Touch and Love Against The Wall, produced by New York based John FX Crawford. Hauntingly somber tones color World Caving In produced by Imran “Fire Peter” Passard and FX for the Humbless Music Group, with Gyptian’s emotive falsetto flourish reflecting a major shift in his lifestyle, as he explains: “That song is based on the fact that I am a little more settled now in my personal life and the things I used to do before, for better or worse, I don’t do them no more because this particular woman I am with satisfies all my wants and desires.”
Music fans wants and desires will undoubtedly be satisfied by the poignant singing, pensive words and audacious musical approaches that are not typically found on CDs coming out of Kingston, which characterize I Can Feel Your Pain. These innovative strategies, Gyptian believes, will help to revitalize record sales for and worldwide interest in contemporary Jamaican music. “What I really want to do is bring back the market,” Gyptian declares, “because from Bob Marley days no reggae artist really go out and sell a million copies. So I am trying to bring back life to reggae music because Bob Marley was just a man like me, so I use him as a landmark for what I am trying to achieve.”
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