Gerald was born in 1920 at Poramba, Ambalangoda in Sri Lanka.
The town being famous for religious ritual dances and ancient devil masks even today, nadagam music, folk songs, drum rhythms filled Gerald’s childhood. A ritual with dancing through the night known as “Magul Maduwa” was his first direct contact with traditional dancing & singing. Nurthi hall run by his father at hometown and tower hall songs played on the Gramophone player at home exposed him further towards traditional music.
After his early education at Dharmasoka College Ambalangoda, he completed his education at St. Thomas’s College Mt. Lavinia, where he was exposed to pop music.
Gerald enrolled himself to learn music by Ananda Samarakone in 1938, where he learned to play the Esraj. This also gave Gerald the opportunity to sing for musical programs at Radio Ceylon along with Ananda Samarakoon.
Gerald started his career in the Plantation sector by joining EPA Bogala Estates Ltd. as an Assistant in 1948. He ventured into his own business, the legendary “The Children’s Bookshop” on the advice of his cousin K.V.J. De Silva in 1959 and left EPA Bogala Estates Ltd., at that time as a Managing Director.
Originally dealing in the sale and distribution of Children’s books, he went on to sell vinyl records, which eventually led him to his next venture: The Sooriya Record label.
In this midst of running his music business, Gerald also pursued his interests in Agriculture travelling every weekend to his estates located in southern Sri Lanka.
Due to partial blindness, Gerald, driven by his wife in their sturdy Austin A 40 would not only walk every inch of his fields but on Sunday’s sell vegetables grown in his back yard at Colpetty at the weekly Jathika Pola, held at Bullers Road, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka.
Gerald, being an avid reader and autodidact, gained a profound understanding of music in terms of its evolution, influences as well musicology. This helped him to develop his natural talent he had for the genre and with it he had the knack to recognize and pick talents and transform them into stars of the Sinhala Pop scene.
Gerald christened many artistes and groups ranging from Golden Chimes, Super Golden Chimes, M. S. Fernando as Baila Chakravarti, Paul Fernando as King of Baila, Shiromi Fernando as Baby Shiromi.
Thus he went on to produce the countless hit songs for which Sooriya is so well known today.
Gerald playing the keyboards at Sooriya studio in 1973
Next to being an outstanding producer, he always was somewhat a “rebel with a cause”.
When popular songs were banned by the then Radio Ceylon considering this music to be “Thuppahi music” he lobbied and wrote articles in the newspapers supporting the artiste’s and their creations.
Gerald set a new benchmark in Intellectual Property in Sri Lanka’s music industry with Sooriya offering royalties for music creators, when it was almost unheard at the time.
Being the first Sri Lankan member of International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and also the pioneer in setting up of the then popular Sri Lanka Performing Rights Society (SLPRS), Gerald always fought against piracy of music.
Gerald created many a new trend in the Sri Lankan entertainment industry from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s with his label. Not only did he produce a large number of evergreen hits, he also constantly broke new ground; popularized Sinhala pop music amongst a widely western speaking audience, was bold enough to take the initiative to produce Tamil pop music when it was not in vogue, synthesized the sounds of local drum rhythms with that of a symphony written by the late Winston Jayawardena, recorded and produced Nurthi Gee and brought to life tower hall music in an era when this music was unheard amongst the public, a live pop show on a floating stage, a radio show sponsored by a record label,
A well-kept secret in his life was that GW was blind in one eye, due to a sports incident that took place in his mid-teens. Whilst most knew that his sight was affected, he never let this affect his personal or work life.
After Gerald lost his vision in 1981 to a failed cataract operation, he contributed his time and energy to the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind, whilst his wife Dulcie continued to look after the interests of Sooriya.
After a life lived fruitfully, Gerald Wickremesooriya passed away on 9th January 2006 at the age of 86.
Driven by Gerald’s interest in many genres, Sooriya recorded a wide repertoire ranging from calypso music influenced group songs with both acoustic and electric sounds, Sinhala, Tamil and Western pop, baila, Sinhala light classical, drum rhythms, nurthi gee, nadagam music, folk songs, children’s songs and in the latter years Buddhist chantings.