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|Associated acts||Chineke! Orchestra|
Sheku Kanneh-Mason grew up in Nottingham, England. He is the third eldest of the seven children of Stuart Mason (a business manager) and 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 ABRSM junior scholarship to join the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music, where he is tutored by Ben Davies. Kanneh-Mason received his non-specialist education as a pupil at the Trinity School, Nottingham, where he studied for A levels in Music, Maths and Physics.
In 2015, he and his siblings were competitors on Britain's Got Talent as The Kanneh-Masons. He won the BBC's Young Musician of the Year contest in May 2016, later telling The Observer that appearing on Britain's Got Talent had 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 is a member of the Chineke! Orchestra, which was founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku for 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-Georges we're playing in September."
In November 2016, Kanneh-Mason was the subject of a BBC Four documentary entitled Young, Gifted and Classical: The Making of a Maestro. The following month, he was interviewed for BBC Radio 4's Front Row round-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 Kanneh-Mason signed a record deal with classical music label Decca Classics in 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 Awards held 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 early February 2018, the BBC reported that Kanneh-Mason's album Inspiration was "the biggest-selling British debut of the year to date", entering the UK Albums Chart at number 18, had become number one on the UK classical albums chart, and had achieved 2.5 million streamings on Spotify.
Kanneh-Mason was the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award, following which his home town of Nottingham named a bus in his honour. His other awards include the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Instrumentalist Duet Prize 2016. In June 2017 he was nominated in the 'Classical' category of the South Bank Sky Arts Awards' The Times Breakthrough prize, which he went on to win.
To coincide with his performance at the BAFTAs in February 2017, Kanneh-Mason released his debut EP. The three-track EP was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios.
These tracks follow the viral success of Sheku's video of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah', arranged by Tom Hodge. Sheku performed this arrangement at the BAFTA Awards in February 2017. Sheku has also recorded Gaspar Cassadó's 'Requiebros'.
On 26 January 2018 Sheku's first full length CD was issued by Decca. The recording includes the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 (accompanied by the CBSO conducted by Mirga Grazintye-Tyla) as well as shorter works by Shostakovich, Saint-Saens, Offenbach, Casals and others.