Good Musicians Have Patience: Jonathan Butler

27 Oct 2015 12:00pm


Becoming a world-class singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer was just a dream for South African jazz musician, Jonathan Butler. The ambitious Cape Town-born musician, who calls himself 'JB', kept thousands of Namibians on their feet for more than three hours during a mind-blowing event on Saturday.

The 2015 Windhoek Jazz Festival, which took place at the Hage Geingob Stadium, saw local artists Sean 'Sean K' Kamati, Dixon, Fu Jazz, Zenzo and Lize Ehlers on stage before Butler. Hip Hop Pantsula from South Africa was also part of the run up to JB's act.

With his guitar in his left hand and fingers so fast to find the right passionate chords, the 54-year-old captivated the audience with some of his best songs such as 'Falling in Love with Jesus; Lies; If You're Ready (Come GO With Me); Do You Love Me; Dance With Me; and I'm on my knees.'

"A good musician has time, patience and confidence," the soulful guitarist said during a media conference at a local hotel on Friday.

He described himself as a student and lover of music. "When you are a student and lover of music, your mind and heart are open for every kind of music," said Butler, adding that his music is rooted 'deep' and he listens to many types of music from around the world.

This is why collaborations with other musicians are so important for any artist, he said. Over the years, he has collaborated with many musicians such as Quincy Jones, Earl Klugh, Dave Koz, and Tom Scott.

Despite the difficult life he experienced as a child during the South African apartheid era, Butler started singing and playing the acoustic guitar at a young age. He absorbed inspiration from various genres ranging from R&B and Pop to Jazz and Gospel.

He was an admirer of Stevie Wonder, who became a major influence, as did guitarist, R&B/Pop singer George Benson, his all-time hero. Butler is also a huge fan of South African pianist and composer Abdullah Ibrahim, also known as 'Dollar Brand'.

Butler took off and hit the music scene with his first album that was released in 1973 at the age of 12. He became the first black artist to be played on mainstream South African radio, which earned him the Sarie Music Award - an award conferred by a local Afrikaans magazine.

This was not the first time the legend visited Namibia. He first performed in what was South-West Africa during the late 1970s and performed in Windhoek, Rehoboth, Swakopmund and Lüderitz. He was on tour with South African band The Rockets, as well as SA singer, songwriter and producer Richard John Smith.

"I have fond memories and it is so good to be back," he said. Many wonder why the Jazz artist has also started producing gospel music. Butler said he experimented and used drugs since a very young age but accepted Jesus in his life about 35 years ago.

Now a devoted Christian, Butler's music delivers spiritual and inspirational healing for many. "My music is now infused and grounded with spirituality," he said.

Advising young and upcoming artists, Butler said patience is key for any musician to have a prosperous career in the music industry. "When things get tough, refocus and try again," he suggested.

Butler moved to the United Kingdom in the 1980s to make a better living as a musician, but things have changed quite a bit since then, as record companies no longer take as much ownership of artists' work. Today, musicians can write their own tunes, do recordings and sell their songs on the worldwide web, such as on iTunes.

"We are our own best promoters. We need to have a business mind as well as a creative mind. Never give up," he summarised.

Currently, Butler lives in Los Angeles in the United States of America (USA) with his wife and two daughters. He is also a devoted grandfather. In his spare time, he cooks and plays golf.

Butler also owns a tourism company that organises tours to SA for US residents. His music career has taken him far over the years - not only across the Atlantic, but beyond his wildest dreams. (NAMPA) PC/LI/AS