May 24, 2018 

By Brian W. Carter 

Contributing Writer


The first biracial bride becoming a part of the Royal Family.


A Black choir singing at a Royal Wedding.


A charged sermon on race and love being preached at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.


Now, how do you top that? You don’t—you simply introduce the world to a very talented, cellist who has captured hearts worldwide.


Sheku Kanneh-Mason is winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition.  He was the first Black musician to win the award since its launch 38 years earlier.


He was already in great demand from major orchestras and concert halls worldwide. The Black Briton was requested by the now, Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle herself, to play at her wedding.


Kanneh-Mason is the third eldest of musical siblings, Isata, his older sister, who plays the piano, his older brother, Braimah, a year older than Kanneh-Mason, who plays the violin and Mariatu, his younger sister, who plays the violin as well. Altogether, Kanneh-Mason is the third of seven siblings in total. He and his siblings were competitors on “Britain’s Got Talent.”


He was born in Nottingham, England, in 1999, to Stuart Mason, a business manager, and Dr. Kadiatu Kanneh, a former university lecturer. Kanneh-Mason began playing the cello when he was six-years-old, having previously played the violin. When he was nine-years-old, he passed the Grade 8 cello examination with the highest marks in the UK and won the Marguerite Swan Memorial Prize. He also won an ABRSM junior scholarship to join the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music. Kanneh-Mason attended the Trinity School in Nottingham, where he studied for A levels in Music, Maths and Physics.


In 2016, Kanneh-Mason was a member of the Chineke! Orchestra, which was founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku for Black and minority ethnic classical musicians. Earlier this year, he donated £3000 ($4,030.20) to his old secondary school so ten other young people could continue having cello lessons.


“I feel it’s kind of really important to give back to the school because of the opportunities and space and support they’ve given me,” stated Kanneh-Mason to BBC News.


In January 2018, his debut recording for decca classics, inspiration, was released, featuring the Shostakovich Cello Concerto NO. 1 with the city of Birmingham Sym­phony Orchestra and Mirga Graz­inyte-Tyla. The album reached 18 on the official UK album charts and number one in the classical chart.


Kanneh-Mason’s international career is moving as he already made debuts with the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic And Ton­halle Orchestra, Zurich. He will also be appearing with the Barcelona Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra At The Rheingau Festival, Seattle Sym­phony, Orchestre Philharmonique De Radio France, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, The Atlanta Symphony, London Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Rotterdam Phil­harmonic, And Baltimore Symphony.


In recital, he made his London debut at the King’s Place in October 2017 as part of their Cello Unwrapped Series. Upcoming debuts include The Barbican Centre’s Milton Court, Wigmore Hall, Zurich Tonhalle, Lucerne Festival, and Carnegie Hall, New York.


The 19-year-old captivated viewers around the world as he performed Maria Theresia von Paradis' “Sicilienne,” Gabriel Fauré's “Après un rêve” and Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” He has already attained the social media knighting as “Cello Bae.” The young phenom has stated that he was bowled over when Ms. Markle called me to ask if I would play during the ceremony.


“I immediately said yes! What a privilege to be able to play the cello at such a wonderful event. I can’t wait!”


If you would like to find out more about Sheku Kanneh-Mason, please visit

Category: Arts & Culture