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A Night at the Kazbah show: How Lagos jazz lovers defied rain to keep date with Jonathan Butler

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By BENJAMIN NJOKU & CHRIS ONUOHA

‘This is one great night to remember!’ exclaimed Joe, an Afro soul enthusiast. Another enthusiast, Philip, a regular Island nightclub crooner felt the same way, “Real live music comes alive.’ Indeed, that’s how best to describe the night show that rekindled the appetite of both old and young jazz lovers who thronged the Balmore’s Dome, Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, last weekend, to watch a jazz music legend, Jonathan Butler, perform some of his evergreen songs before them.

It was not the first time, Jonathan Butler performed in Nigeria. But last weekend’s performance was something out of the ordinary. The jazz fusion guitarist and Grammy nominee took the audience to another realm, performing hit songs after hit. It was a night of oldies and jazz music at its best.

The soulful jazz crooner who hit the stage at about 10 pm put his powerful talent on display to the admiration of the audience. For more than one and half hours, the legend performed non-stop on stage. And despite the heavy-downpour that almost marred the show, people were not in a hurry to leave the venue. They were busy dancing and singing along with the jazz maestro as he went on and on reeling out his old songs.

*Jonathan Butler  performing alongside Mi Casa
*Jonathan Butler performing alongside Mi Casa

Dressed in a majestic way, the jazz fusion guitarist stirred the already charged audience with Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”song with a blend of Soweto fusion. His energetic performance tells less of his age, just as his high pitched vocal prowess kept even the night’s rainfall down. He later sang his “Grace and Mercy”which rose to the top of the Billboard contemporary jazz chart and peaked with singles “Don’t Walk Away” and “I Stand on Your Word” among others. While his performance lasted, people were having swell time, jumping up and down.

Butler confessed while on stage that the audience inspired his unimaginable performance just as he claimed it never happened in his previous performance in the country.

Butler stepped on stage shortly after Mi Casa’s performance. The South Africans thrilled too with inspiring love songs that won the hearts of many.

Speaking backstage after his performance, Jonathan Butler could not hide his excitement. According to him ‘I had an awesome time in Lagos at Smooth 98.1FM’s ‘A Night at The Kazbah’. It was amazing, I can’t wait for another opportunity to come back and do it all over again’.

Butler, a native of Cape Town, South Africa, began his career nearly four decades ago, signing his first record deal when he was just a teenager. Since then Butler has seen success in the jazz and RnB arenas, with a particular focus on gospel music. His latest release, Grace and Mercy, rose to the top of the Billboard contemporary jazz chart and peaked with singles “Don’t Walk Away” and “I Stand on Your Word.”

He engaged the audience while he performed and they sang along with him. It ended in a drama. The singing was on and he urged all to continue. The orchestration stopped but the singing with the crowd continued. Everybody was charged and high with and in his music. The audience kept singing when the light dimmed and he walked away while the crowd continued singing.

The show had come to an end but those singing would not stop. They wanted more even as the illumination on the stage brightened and Butler was no longer there. It was simply amazing. “I don’t know what I’m still doing in this country,” a young boy who plays the keyboard said, apparently wishing he could learn the ropes under Butler. He left the hall a happy boy full of dreams. It was his first Jazz show and Butler blew him to the skies.

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