The maestro stringing together the sounds of KwaZulu-Natal
How much power does music have? “More than we realise,” Guy Buttery says. When he picked up a guitar as a child, he didn’t anticipate how this would come to resonate in his life. Buttery was simply adding to the tunes of his musically-inclined family. By the age of 12, he was already writing his own melodies and lyrics. With an interest in soulful rhythms and an aptitude for unusual instruments, Buttery’s skillset expanded as he grew up. Today he uses his extensive talent as a fingerstyle guitarist to blend the sounds of South Africa.
Raised in KwaZulu-Natal, Buttery experienced the province’s rich cultural diversity. He studied jazz at university and learnt maskandi – a style of Zulu folk music – from the local population. Influenced by the large Indian diaspora, Buttery developed an interest and proficiency in the sitar, a classical string instrument. “Only in South Africa would you get all of these textures under one umbrella,” he says. The artist’s repertoire extends from genres to instruments, as he adds the African mbira, a musical saw, an EBow, and a mandolin to his sets. Though these tools are uncommon, Buttery has mastered them. “I try to merge these sounds in a way that ultimately stands to represent the world I grew up in,” he says.
With his range of rhythms, Buttery plucks at the heartstrings of the country. He’s released seven albums, won two South African Music Awards, and taken his talents across the world to showcase our diverse heritage. Along his musical journey, he’s collaborated with Indian classical maestro Kanada Narahari, folk singer Vusi Mahlasela, and acoustic guitarist Nibs van der Spuy among others. Last year, Buttery received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music, securing his place in a league of legendary creatives. “South Africa deserves its own local sound,” he says. “I’m humbled to be one of the many voices contributing to that.”