‘Gospel music should not be confined to the church,’ says Jonathan Butler

The South African Grammy nominated guitarist and singer weighs in on the state of gospel music.

Butler, a powerful vocalist who has conquered all genres including jazz, R&B, pop and gospel was one of the many celebrities at BET Network’s annual Celebration of Gospel event which was held on Saturday at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

Hosted by author and comedian Steve Harvey, who kept audiences entertained with his signature comedy routine which included reflections on ‘attending church services,’ the two-hour special which pays tribute to the rich history of gospel music included energetic and eclectic performances by Le’Andria Johnson and Tyrese Gibson, Karen Clark Sheard and daughter Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, Tye Tribbett, Pastor Shirley Caesar and Yolanda Adams.

A contemporary jazz musician who was one of the first black artists played on white South African radio, Butler, who is preparing for a tour in West Africa has earned accolades in the R&B, contemporary jazz and gospel fields.

“Gospel music isn’t as popular as other genres, but the more of us who are in the urban contemporary jazz world that become involved with gospel music and embrace it, will make it open up more,” says Butler who recorded his first gospel album in 2006. “Gospel music cannot be just confined to the church.  It’s too much in the church and it’s got to be in the world as Jesus was sending his men out into the world to preach the gospel. We are supposed to go from the church into the world and affect the world.”

Other chart-topping artists who graced the elaborate stage included R&B vocalist Tamar Braxton, Anita Baker, singer/actress Tamela Mann, Smokie Norful and Jessica Reedy who is working on a new album due for release later in the year and gospel rapper Da T.R.U.T.H. who just returned from a four week tour in Nigeria where he has been promoting his new album “Love, hope and war.”

Kicking off the annual 13th Celebration of Gospel was a special annual faith-based prayer breakfast created to unite various religions, cultures and denominations together the day before the taping of the show. Participants included Grammy winning gospel artist Dorinda Clark Cole, comedian Nikita B. and Columbia Tristar Pictures executive and author DeVon Franklin. With a performance by the gospel group Livre, the prayer breakfast meeting was hosted by entertainment personality Fonzworth Bentley.

The Celebration of Gospel will air on Sunday, April 7th at 8:00 p.m. on BET.

Pictured:  Jonathan Butler (Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images)

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