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Jonathan Butler Used Music to Cross Color Lines in Apartheid South Africa

“Being famous, but you still have to go live in your shack in your segregated township…it started to affect me in ways I didn’t realize.”

Jonathan Butler was the first Black artist to be prominently featured on White radio stations during apartheid in South Africa. In a new interview with EBONY, the musician details his life at the time of the achievement, saying that while it was a proud moment that brought about notoriety, he still lived in a “shack” and faced discrimination on a regular basis.

“Every establishment I played in was ‘Whites only,’ ‘Blacks only,’ Colored only,’ ‘Indian only.’ When I won the Grammy in South Africa, it was blacked out from the radio, it was blacked out from the media, it was blacked out from television,” he said.

“Being famous and having gold records and a Grammy, but you still have to go live in your shack in your segregated townships … started to affect me in ways I didn’t even realize.”

Butler admitted that South Africa is incredibly different today than it was during his formative years, but he said those experiences will always be with him.

“No matter how much the country changes, I’m still very aware of where I am.”

Check out the clip above.

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