As a fitting end to a recent week of activities planned in his honor, Ronnie Butler, dubbed the “godfather of Bahamian music,” extended appreciation to Minister of State in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Charles Maynard and the organisers of “Ronnie Butler Week” by hosting a special luncheon, on July 24, 2008, at Coco-nuts Bar and Grill, West Bay Street.
In response to the gratitude extended to him and the team of organisers by Mr. Butler, Minister Maynard said, “he (Ronnie Butler) is well deserving of all the honors he has received and he thought it was necessary to bring us all back together one more time and say thank you.”
Butler, whose contribution to the Bahamian music industry spans some 54 years, recently celebrated his 70th birthday. The Government, in conjunction with a private sector committee, organised a week of activities to recognise the great Bahamian icon as a cultural ambassador, entertainer and musical veteran.
“Ronnie Butler is a special person. People of many generations know and appreciate him,” said Minister Maynard. “Other cultural giants don’t have that kind of appeal; but in their own way and time their contributions would be just as great. It is important that the young people in society know who the forbearers were.”
Using musical icon Joseph Spence (now deceased) as an example, Minister Maynard said, “It would be important to know that he was someone who carried folk music to the world from The Bahamas. Ask the average young person and they would not know who he is.
“It is important for us to keep this kind of process going so that everybody, no matter how old or how young you are, as a Bahamian, you would know and appreciate how our culture and our cultural expressions have developed over the years,” said the Minister.
Minister Maynard described culture as the “most important” part in branding the product of The Bahamas.
“It is what distinguishes us from every other destination that has similar amenities like sun, sand and sea. Only The Bahamas has its unique culture and unique cultural expressions.”
Minister Maynard said governments throughout the world are embracing the fact that culture is the strongest component of the overall tourism product.
“People will fly out of season to participate in a particular type of festival or people will come to your destination over and over again because of a particular event that they like.
“You can have enough of a hotel property, or the sun, sand and sea; but once you start to love a particular part of what we do – whether it’s a food festival, regatta, or whether it’s Junkanoo or a music festival – once you like it and enjoy it you will put it on your calendar as an annual thing that you will attend and make your pilgrimage to.
“It’s the most important aspect of our tourism product that we have and we definitely need to expand it and exploit it more,” he said.
Butler, who received the Cacique Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, began his career in music at the age of 16. He has performed in local nights spots such as Ronnie’s Rebel Room, the Rum Key, Big Bamboo, the Trade Winds Lounge, and Nassau Beach Hotel. Among his hits are songs like “Burma Road” and “Goin’ Back to the Island”.