The mending power of music

This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for music, Guy Buttery, developed his skills early in life

This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for music, Guy Buttery
This year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for music, Guy Buttery
Image: Gillian Coetzee

Drawing inspiration influences as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and maskandi, Guy Buttery has been soothing the souls of thousands since he first hit the musical scene in his teenage years.

Growing up in KwaZulu-Natal and listening to Zulu musicians playing maskandi on oil-drum guitars, hearing the sounds of the sitar from local Hindu temples and influenced by his piano-playing mother and guitar-playing brothers, Buttery developed his musical skills early in life.

“It is like either sculpting or painting – [playing and composing music is] more of a technique really, coupled with the approach to the instrument.

“My music is very much an amalgamation of all kinds of musical aspects and genres, either what I am currently immersed in or have been for some time. It isn’t any kind of traditional sense of genre that I am drawing from,” he explained.

Buttery’s programme for this year’s festival, The Mending, speaks of healing and wellbeing after he was struck down by a mysterious illness last year which had him confined to his bed for five months and which “lingered for a year and a half”.

“I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it,” he said.

“The Mending acted as a major catharsis for this difficult time and is very much inspired, among other things, by Indian classical music which was the one medicine which led to my healing.”

Being honoured with the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for music this year was a humbling experience, coupled with shock, for the Durban musician.

“It was quite a surprise to be honest, because typically the award doesn’t go to a nonclassical artist.”

The double South African Music Award (Sama )winner is nevertheless thrilled by the prestigious accolade.

First performing on the Fringe at the National Arts Festival back in 2004 at the tender age of 19, Buttery said he has seen positive changes in the festival.

“I have seen changes in the programme over the years of what is presented, which is positive in the sense of growth and change.”

This year will be the 13th time Buttery will be performing at the festival.

“The National Arts Festival is very much my favourite. I have done different festivals all over the world, but I have a special place in my heart for this festival,” he said.

As for what he hopes his audience will experience, he said he sees himself as merely a catalyst for people to experience their own vulnerabilities.

“I find it difficult to either pinpoint or necessarily outline what I hope people will take away from my performances.

“Most important for me is that the form of music I present, is best left up to the individual – instrumental music does have that a little more.

“It is different from when there is a specific, intended lyric with a specific message which can have multiple interpretations.

“It is a vulnerable space where you can search for some kind of transformation.”

In his own words, “[which will be] something quite different, sort of more out of the box”.

Growing up in KwaZulu-Natal and listening to Zulu musicians playing maskandi on oil-drum guitars, hearing the sounds of the sitar from local Hindu temples and influenced by his piano-playing mother and guitar-playing brothers, Guy Buttery developed his musical skills early in life.

In 2002, Buttery released his debut album, When I Grow Up, for which he received his first Sama nomination.

He then went on to win another two Samas – in 2010 and 2014.

He has also toured internationally and has performed in the US, the UK, Australia, France, Brazil and Italy.

The Mending is tonight at 7pm at the Thomas Pringle Hall and tomorrow at 7pm at the Guy Butler Theatre, both at the Monument.

X