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FLASHBACK: Jonathan Butler answers call from home

Published Feb 10, 2021


Cape Town – New online series JazzFix will kick off on February 27 with one of South Africa’s favourite jazz artists, Jonathan Butler.

The show, brought on by the producers of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF), will feature Butler’s Homecoming performance on the Kippies stage at the 2019 festival as well as a conversation between him and JazzFix host Unathi.

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Ahead of the show, we flash back back to an interview former arts writer, Luke Folb, did with Butler prior to his 2019 Homecoming performance as well as snippets from the 2019 CTIJF press conference.

Butler says the organisers came up with the concept of a “homecoming” for him to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the festival.

“I started out hosting the Cape Town Jazz Festival years ago and I brought a lot of friends, from Dave Koz, to Patti Austen, who used to come out here.

“But it’s been a while since I’ve actually performed at the festival and I can’t even remember how many years back the last performance was.”

The youngest of 13 children and now based in Los Angeles in the US, Butler lived in the UK for many years before moving to the US after gaining a loyal following in both countries.

The Grammy Award-nominated artist has had a legion of fans in South Africa from a young age, after he became a teen sensation following the release of his first album in 1973 and the success of his double gold records Please Stay and I Love How You Love Me, released in 1975.

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“I was famous in South Africa since I was 12 years old and I’ve never seen that type of popularity ever again. These days it’s American Idols and The Voice.

“It’s so different today. You have a kid in a hotel room making records and selling millions of records. The industry shape is different, you get more entrepreneurs, you get people working with tech in music, using a computer and a drum machine to make music.

“But the old way is still going to be around and there are all kinds of ways to make your record and get it on the radio, but I’m an old school guy who believes in record companies and A&R (artists and repertoire) where you listen to a record and if it’s not good, you say let’s try it a different way,” he said.

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Although Butler has lived and travelled extensively out of the country, his music remains embedded in South African culture, dating back to the beginnings of his career when he was singing and playing songs about racial segregation and poverty during apartheid.

He first began playing acoustic guitar at seven years old and his debut single was the first by a black musician to be played on white radio stations.

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“I’m always a student of music, not just a musician, and I listen and always try to buy records, but my culture and musical experience is always rooted in South Africa through jazz, music, melodies and rhythm.

“In a way, I’ve been able to merge all the different (musical) cultures into my experiences since I began composing all those years ago,” he said.

* Tickets to JazzFix Show 1: Jonathan Butler Homecoming are available now at Computicket at only R80. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, viewers will have 48 hours to stream the performance on Computicket. The online event will be available to purchase for one month after the initial stream date.

Each JazzFix show will be brought to you on the last Saturday of every month so look out for an array of fan-favourite performances to be announced soon.

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