Butler’s musical journey stops in Carmel


Jonathan Butler’s life has taken amazing turns.

The singer/songwriter and guitarist from South Africa will perform at 7 p.m. March 26 at the Palladium at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel.

Butler was the first nonwhite artist to be played on South African radio and television.

“I couldn’t envision where my life has taken me from the age of 11,” Butler said. “This is a dream come true. I can’t even express coming from a family of 12 brothers and sisters and great poverty to opening for Whitney Houston and Eric Clapton and becoming an international artist. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe that this is real because where I come from, people are humble and people are simple and people are community based. Growing up in a family where there wasn’t a lot to go around, it’s an unbelievable dream and an unbelievable journey. I’m grateful for it all, signing my first recording when I was 13.”

Butler said he really hasn’t reflected on the journey.

“But there’s a saying, ‘Count your blessings and name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done,’” Butler said. “So, all that has happened to me is what God has designed for me, and all that I’ve been through God has guided me through it, so I’m humbly grateful for my life and all that in it. And everyone that surrounds me that loves me that I love — my children, my grandchildren, my wife, my family, my friends, all over the world.”

Anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela said Butler’s music inspired him during his imprisonment for opposing the apartheid system. Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa in 1994.

“I’ve been blessed in my life to have encountered amazing people and light,” he said. “I call them light, and that is Nelson Mandela and (South African bishop) Desmond Tutu. They’ve been my inspiration. Not just mine, but my generation, my nation. They were the pillars and still are the pillars of freedom and justice in South Africa. I was very blessed and fortunate to know both these incredible lights of our community and our country.”

Butler said he has had strong ties with both families that continue to grow stronger. Mandela died in 2013 and Tutu died in 2021.

“I still carry their spirit with me,” Butler said. “What was more important to me is to hear them say thank you and for me to say thank you back to them for what they have stood for. So I am grateful and humbled by the fact that I’ve had those relationships, and now with the new generation of the Mandela family and the Desmond Tutu family, it’s an amazing thing how God brings you back to your roots and to the understanding that we are one. We stand together.”

For more, thecenterpresents.org.


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