Sheku Kanneh-Mason(born 1999) is a British cellist who won the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award. He was the first black musician to win the award since its launch 38 years earlier.He played at the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markleon 19 May 2018 under the direction of Christopher Warren-Green.
Early life and education
Kanneh-Mason grew up in Nottingham, England. He is the third of the seven children of Stuart Mason, a business manager, and Dr. Kadiatu Kanneh, a former university lecturer,and began playing the cello at the age of six, having briefly played the violin.At the age of nine, he passed the Grade 8 cello examination with the highest marks in the UK,and won the Marguerite Swan Memorial Prize.Also aged nine he won an ABRSMjunior scholarship to join the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music, where he was tutored by Ben Davies.Kanneh-Mason received his non-specialist education as a pupil at the Trinity School, Nottingham,where he studied for A levelsin Music, Maths and Physics.
In 2015, he and his siblings were competitors on Britain's Got Talentas The Kanneh-Masons. He won the BBC's Young Musician of the Year contest in May 2016, later telling The Observerthat appearing on Britain's Got Talenthad been "a good experience for getting used to performing in front of lots of people, with cameras and interviews. When it came to BBC Young Musician there were fewer cameras so I wasn't fazed at all."
Kanneh-Mason was a member of the Chineke! Orchestra, which was founded by Chi-chi Nwanokufor black and minority ethnic classical musicians; his sister Isata and brother Braimah are also members.In 2016, Kanneh-Mason told The Guardian's Tom Service that:
Chineke! is a really inspiring project. I rarely go to a concert and see that kind of diversity in the orchestra. Or in the audience. Having the orchestra will definitely change the culture. It's so important we're celebrating music by black composers, too, like the piece by Chevalier de Saint-Georgeswe're playing in September.
In November 2016, Kanneh-Mason was the subject of a BBC Fourdocumentary entitled Young, Gifted and Classical: The Making of a Maestro.The following month, he was interviewed for BBC Radio 4's Front Rowround-up of the year's major arts and entertainment award winners.
In January 2018, it was reported that Kanneh-Mason had donated £3,000 to his former secondary school, enabling ten other pupils to continue their cello lessons.
Sheku currently studies with Hannah Robertsat the Royal Academy of Musicin London.
Kanneh-Mason signed a deal for worldwide general management with London-based boutique agency, Enticott Music Managementin June 2016, and went on to sign a major recording contract with classical music label Decca Classicsin November 2016. The record deal was signed on board a Nottingham City Transport bus which the local authority had named in his honour after Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician contest.The label announced that his first recording would feature the piece with which he won the BBC's Young Musician of the Year contest, Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No.1.
Kanneh-Mason performed at the 2017 British Academy Film Awardsheld in London's Royal Albert Hall.In the same year, he was the soloist for the Chineke! orchestra's performance at the BBC Proms, playing Antonín Dvořák's Rondo in G Major.In February 2018, Sheku became the first artist ever to be re-invited to perform a second time at the British Academy Film Awards, playing "Evening of Roses" by Josef Hadar in an arrangement by Tom Hodge. For his second BAFTAs performance, Sheku was joined on stage at the Royal Albert Hall by four of his siblings: Isata, Braimah, Konya, and Jeneba Kanneh-Mason.
In early February 2018, the BBC reported that Kanneh-Mason's album Inspirationwas "the biggest-selling British debut of the year to date", entering the UK Albums Chartat number 18, had become number one on the UK classical albums chart, and had achieved 2.5 million streams on Spotify.
On 19 May 2018, Kanneh-Mason performed as part of the musical selections for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Kanneh-Mason has cited the prominent cellists Jacqueline du Préand Mstislav Rostropovichas his "musical heroes", alongside Bob Marley.
Kanneh-Mason was the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Yearcompetition, following which his home town of Nottingham named a bus in his honour.His other awards include the Royal Philharmonic SocietyYoung Instrumentalist Duet Prize 2016.
In June 2017 he was nominated in the 'Classical' category of the South Bank Sky Arts Awards' The TimesBreakthrough prize,which he went on to win.
In June 2018, he won both the Male Artist of the Year and the Critics' Choice Award at the Classic BRIT Awards.