On Saturday, June 20, a modest-sized crowd gathered at The Forge to watch Thomas Buttenschøn play a solo acoustic set. Already well-established in his hometown of Denmark, Buttenschøn has released five studio albums in his decade-long career. He is currently at work on his sixth, and touring with his new material. But the mere superficiality of fame is not what he’s after. Buttenschøn has a message he wants to communicate through his music.
Born in Zambia, Buttenschøn endured a difficult childhood. Both of his parents contracted HIV, which led to him contracting it at birth. He lost his parents at an early age, and continues to struggle with the symptoms of his illness. Buttenschøn seeks to raise awareness about the virus, and he is able to do so in a way that people find much more accessible than many other kinds of advocacy: his relatable, heartfelt songs.
Buttenschøn took his time getting into the first song, strumming the chords idly and then stopping to relay humorous anecdotes and observations. He then started in on the first song “Keep on Talkin,” which featured clever, socio-cultural lyrics over breezy barre chords.This was followed by a slow dirge; a song he professed was dedicated to his birthplace of Zambia. Its dulcet melody and lullaby singing eclipsed and calmed any lingering restlessness that remained in the still-arriving crowd. By the next song, the crowd was dead silent, utterly entranced. A portion of the crowd dotting the white half-shell of a wall swayed hypnotically, following Buttenschvn’s every word. Other highlights of the show included a song about an albino from Zambia. Its soft fingerpicked melody was so breathtakingly beautiful and heart-achingly raw, that it was almost difficult to clap after the final chord was struck.“Doin’ My Drugs,” his song which refers to the strict regimen of prescription medication Buttenschøn must take in order to combat his HIV, was one of the most well received of the night.
It was clear from this show that Buttenschøn has tapped into a uniquely powerful energy. His work is strong, soulful and confident, and reflects the man behind the songs. He also has the rare courage to do more than just entertain. As he said himself that Saturday night, “The goal is simple: I just want to change the world with my songs.”