Jonathan Butler a ‘youngster’. Picture: Noor Slamdien
Jonathan Butler a ‘youngster’. Picture: Noor Slamdien

It's a Jonathan Butler homecoming at #CTIJF2019

By Orielle Berry Time of article published Mar 30, 2019

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One would expect nothing less from a legend. Jonathan Butler performs "Homecoming" on Saturday night at Kippies from 7pm and expect a repertoire that includes old favourites and newer material.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of his appearance at the CTICC, Butler who has lived in the United States for more than three decades and has a gentle American drawl, delighted media when he spoke a little bit of Afrikaans, reminiscing about the old days in the area he was born, in Athlone.

He said he keeps hearing the words legend here in South Africa to describe himself. "But I am not dead and I haven't quite made it; I have made it in a way that suits me. Legend and legacy - I don't know, man," he said, urging those who wanted to get to know him to go to his street in Athlone.

Ever conscious of his background - he was the youngest of 13 children - he admits he started playing music as a self-taught laaitjie to help feed his family and it took off from there.

While he lives in Los Angeles, he's adamant that here in South Africa we have a distinct brand of homegrown jazz we need to be proud of. "Just because I live in Los Angeles doesn't mean I am not in tune with South African music.

"Jazz here was always progressive and I like that it is absolutely pure jazz - stuff like Allen Kwela, Bheki Mseleku, Letta Mbulu."

Butler added that here we need to own our own jazz style. "Jazz to me is always a healthy conversation and we have had such incredible influences."

As a seasoned musician aged 57, he commented, "I feel more comfortable on stage in the US playing as a South African. The older I get I'm kind of like so liberated. I'm happy to be myself."

Asked what inspires him, Butler answered, "Music for me comes from a higher place. I feel it before I see it."

A strong believer in nurturing the soul of your inner musician, Butler said that it's important to sharpen your own iron and stay true to your own identity. 

He added, " As far as young musicians are concerned, with all the new technology - don't live in a vacuum, You can sit in a room all day long and make music, but you need to take your music and play and meet other musicians ... And if you want longevity write your own songs."

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