The Crusader Newspaper Group

South African icon Jonathan Butler has released ‘Ubuntu’

Beloved singer/guitarist Jonathan Butler recently released “Ubuntu,” his first studio album of original work in eight years. The ‘return to roots’ collection is available everywhere via Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Music Group. The 11-track collection recorded in Johannesburg with South African musicians celebrates Butler’s deep roots and love of his homeland. This commitment to his nation’s heritage is also reflected in “Ubuntu’s” release on Freedom Day held in April, which is the commemoration of the first democratic elections held in South Africa on April 27, 1994.

The romantic and soulful album was produced by Marcus Miller and is Butler’s 10th album for the label and his 28th release overall. Immediately following the album’s launch, Butler sets out on a North American tour.

Butler defines “Ubuntu” as, “A philosophy based in South Africa and spread by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which states, ‘I am me because of you. You are you because of me. We are not separate. We are connected. Sometimes, it is something to seek. Other times it is clear to see. We are One People. All the tribes from Zulu to Gaza embrace this – passed on from generation to generation – and shared among every tribe in every village. Sharing my life with you is Ubuntu.”

In a time when artists of optimism are at a premium, Butler is a shining example of purposeful excellence. From recording local hits as a teenager growing up during the Apartheid of South Africa, Butler went on to become a world-renowned singer, guitarist and songwriter delivering soulful salvos of R&B, gospel, jazz and pop.

Touring professionally by age 7, Butler’s first single, “Please Stay,” was the first by a Black artist played on white radio in segregated South Africa and won a Sarie Award (the country’s equivalent to a Grammy). Committed to conveying stirring messages of freedom and unity through his music, Jonathan became a national icon. His music even provided solace to Nelson Mandela, who later met Butler and told him that listening to his music had helped him endure time in prison.

On the album Butler swings full circle back to his homeland, marinating in all the richness of its musical culture yet with a message for the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity around the globe.

About his message of understanding and encouragement, he says, “Life is hard but the Spirit is powerful and there is strong spirit in this music.” Joining Butler on the album is producer Marcus Miller on bass, keys and bass clarinet, Ernie Smith on guitar, Mornay Hoffmeestet and Russell Gunn on trumpet.

“Ubuntu” is comprised of both emotionally moving instrumentals such as the title track (a harmonic convergence of ostinatos) and the tenderly gorgeous “Peace in Shelter,” co-composed with Yellowjackets keyboardist Russell Ferrante (one of three featuring Butler’s wife Nadira Kimberly Scruggs on violin) and vocals that include the message songs “Rainbow Nation” (about the ongoing battle of Equalizers vs. Dividers), “Our Voices Matter” (‘If we look within, we won’t go without’) and “When Love Comes In,” featuring blues singer Keb’Mo’. The instant attention grabber is a cover of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Superwoman” with Stevie Wonder on harmonica.

During America’s soul-numbing days of the COVID pandemic, Black Lives Matter, a too close for comfort presidential race and an economy on the ropes, a shut-in Butler was restless. “The death of George Floyd polarized or awakened musicians I know,” he states. “Some spoke out, others did not, claiming, ‘I’m an artist not a politician!’ My song ‘Our Voices Matter’ came out of that. You’re either silent and complicit or you speak out.”

Like the philosophy of “Ubuntu” he shares on his latest album, and the great men Tutu, Mandela and Wonder before him, Butler has a vision to do even more to attain peace and collaboration among all people to change the world through music.

Check out Butler’s tour dates at

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago (

Recent News

Scroll to Top