Popular Thai Pop Star Christy Gibson Releases New Single ‘Rejoice!’
By Meg McEwen
The face of the east meets the west as Thai pop star Christy Gibson teams with Hark Music Publications to produce the 2016 single “Rejoice!” The sacred song expresses Scripture using secular Thai pop, Latino cumbia, and classical music. “Rejoice!” communicates a worshipful intensity while appealing to modern audiences across the cultural spectrum. This opportunity enables the Western world to catch a glimpse of Christy Gibson’s talent as she sings in English with a Latino-Thai crossover accompaniment.
A perfect candidate for the song, Christy began bridging cultures at the age of six when her family left the Netherlands for Thailand to teach English and work with charity organizations. In 1997, a financial crisis in Asia caused westerners to flood in, concerning the Thai people. What would become of their heritage?
However, Christy was a Thai at heart and refused to be labeled as farang, or “foreigner”. As a singer surrounded by the traditional music of upcountry Thailand, she grew to love the native lukthoong and mohlum styles of music. Lukthoong, meaning “children of the farmland,” charmed Christy with its folkish relatable tunes. She immersed herself in the music, perfecting the tricky Thai intonations.
“There’s more to it than just singing the right notes. It’s about the language, and it’s about understanding the people you’re singing to. There’s a whole culture behind the music as well,” said Christy in an interview with Arnfield Cudal of Hark Music Publications.
Christy’s fame exploded across Thailand. A popular Thai TV show invited her to perform in the early 2000s. After this exposure to stardom she began releasing albums. She signed with Sony Music Thailand and co-recorded albums with the Swede, Jonas Anderson. Christy’s singles hit the top of the charts and remained lodged in Thai hearts. She received a number of awards, including one from the Ministry of Thai Culture for mastery of the Thai language. Christy was chosen to honor the king of Thailand and his sixty year reign by performing in the H.M. Blue’s project. When floods struck Thailand in 2011, killing over 800 people and leaving millions homeless and destitute, Christy’s album Yah Yohm Pae, “Don’t Give Up,” symbolized hope for the nation.
Around this time, a spiritual floodgate also burst in Christy’s heart. “God has brought me on an amazing journey to bring me where I am today… 2011 really was an upheaval time. I was taking into stock my life and coming to more of an understanding of my faith in a deeper way. I really started doing more with the Christian community,” said Christy. She let her kindness to others bear witness to her faith. People probed, “You’re kind to people…. what do you believe?” These opportunities enabled her to share her testimony and invite others to church.
Christy became the Goodwill Ambassador and public relations representative of iCare Thailand, a charitable organization that provides assistance to the disadvantaged by bringing “a message of hope and love to those in need from all cultural, religious, and ethnic backgrounds.” Her music, while remaining a profession, also became a ministry.
In 2014 she performed at the Srinakarin Hospital in the north-eastern province of Khonkaen. She ended the performance with the song “Don’t Give Up.” However, Christy did not just sing, she interacted with the audience, engaging them through dancing, laughing, and conversation. Her uplifting music reportedly sent tears streaming down the faces of patients and others present at the show. That year she also performed at the Thai Veteran’s Hospital in honor of National Thai Veterans Day. She teamed up with iCare Thailand’s performing troupe “Rhythm of Music” to host charity shows in Chiang Mai. While on the trip, she provided musical therapy for the residents of the Suan Doknai Hospital through classical and contemporary music.
It was around this time that Hark Music Publications discovered Christy Gibson and gave her the opportunity to express her faith through music.
Hark Music Publications based in Palm Beach, FL is no stranger to Thailand. Arnfield Cudal, founder of Hark Publications and son of a missionary family, grew up in Thailand. Over the past forty years the word of God has moved powerfully in Thailand-resulting in 500,000 new believers. Hark Publications recognized the need for these new believers to embrace the Christian faith as their own by proclaiming God’s word in their musical style. The organization founded the Thai Psalms Project, in a mission to bring the Psalms to the nation of Thailand in its own music.
“By putting scripture into Thai traditional music, we hope to show them that Christianity is for everyone and God’s word is for everyone. The Thais don’t need to borrow from Western culture. They can have the word of God for themselves,” said Hannah Cudal in a promotional video for the Thai Psalms Project.
Hark Publication’s new song, “Rejoice!” showcases the talent of Christy Gibson and Alfonso Gutiérrez, a Miami-based Latino composer. Alfonso, a former opera singer fluent in the audio-visual industry, worked under production companies such as EMI Music, Sony Music, Warner with Latino artists like Ricardo Montaner and Shaila Dúrcal.
When Alfonso familiarized himself with Thai music, he was surprised to find American country and Latino cumbia melodies within traditional Thai. He recognized that younger audiences struggle with relating Scripture to cultural context, finding music to be the key platform for Scripture. The lyrics to “Rejoice!” could penetrate modern hearts. Other instrumentalists involved were the world-renowned talent of bassist Guillermo Vadalá, guitarist Manny López, and drummer Richard Bravo. Hannah Cudal from Hark Publications arranged the lyrics of “Rejoice!” from the text of 1 Peter 4.
“This was a magnificent work of adopting the spirit of the Scripture to what it means to be rejoicing in the Lord even though you could be struggling, and that all of these struggles actually form or are part of a bigger plan, and that bigger plan is about ‘Rejoice!’,” said Alfonso in an interview with Hark Publications founder Arnfield Cudal.
Even though the song contains more classical elements and string instrumentals than pop artist Christy usually performs, Christy is delighted to be the voice of “Rejoice!”
This article was contributed by Meg McEwen, a freelance writer from Macon, Georgia.