Calypso, which originated in Trinidad and Tobago in the 19th century, and reggae, which emerged in Jamaica during the 1960s, are musical forms that have fused the Afro-Caribbean folk rhythms with social commentary, protest and spirituality. Although the Caribbean is full of talented performers of these genres of music, Edson “Ajamu” Mitchell has been one of the most outstanding performers in these two forms for nearly three decades.
Mitchell was born in 1963 in the Mamma Cannes sector of the St. Andrew region on the island of Grenada. He grew up in a home with working parents who loved music. He learned music theory and how to play the guitar, piano, saxophone and trombone by teaching himself. He studied recording engineering and musical production at the Audio Institute of America in San Francisco, California.
After settling in Trinidad and Tobago for a year to study the diverse styles of calypso, Mitchell made his debut as a singer in 1983. His great talent and ability with multiple instruments and as a composer allowed him to move up rapidly in the artistic scene of his home island and he eventually become a figure of international renown. He won the respect of established Afro-Caribbean musicians such as McArtha Linda Sandy-Lewis of Tobago, also known as Calypso Rose, and Slinger Francisco, also from Tobago and also known as Mighty Sparrow.
Mitchell, also known as “King Ajamu,” is also recognized for his soca singing, a genre derived from calypso and very similar to Jamaican dancehall and parang, a style of Venezuelan caroling music. On eight occasions (1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2004 and 2005), he was crowned Calypso Monarch in Grenada after winning national band competitions. In 1997, he won the Best Vocalist of the Year Award at the Sunshine Awards in New York and his name appeared on the Billboard hits list. Queen Elizabeth II of Britain named him a Member of the British Empire in 1998, making him the first calypso musician from Grenada to receive that honor.
Among Mitchell’s most popular songs are “Freedom,” “A Prayer to the Nation,” “Oh, Grenada” and “Until my Work is Over.” He has recorded more than a dozen calypso and reggae albums, including In Touch with The Spirit (2000), Living Water (2004), Rockstone (2007), Sunshine (2007) and King Ajamu Silver Collection: 1983-2008 (2008). Mitchell is the owner of the Top Level Recording studio in Virginia in the United States. As a producer, he has collaborated with Afro-Caribbean artists such as Sugar Aloes, Baron, DKGB, TallPree, Val Adams and Inspector, to mention a few.
Edson “Ajamu” Mitchell is married to Lucy Mitchell and they have seven children. They live in Grenada and the United States.
Author: Alfredo Nieves Moreno
Published: December 16, 2011.
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