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Meet The Kanneh-Masons, 7 Siblings Who Are All Classical Music Geniuses

The Kanneh-Mason family including famous cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Photo: Decca Classics/Stuart McIntyre

 

When young and talented cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason won everyone over with his stunning performance at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding ceremony in 2018, it turned out that he was not the only talented classical music genius in his family.

Sheku, the first Black winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2016, has six other classically trained siblings, all of whom play the piano, violin, or cello to a high level. Isata, the eldest, is 24 years old and plays the piano; Braimah, 22, plays the violin; and Konya, 19, and Aminata, 14, both play the piano and violin. Jeneba, 17, and the youngest, Mariatu, 10, both play cello and piano.

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The seven siblings have received numerous awards and have appeared in a variety of television shows and ceremonies, including the Bafta awards in 2018 and the 2019 Royal Variety Show in the United Kingdom, where they wowed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the audience.

Classical music is not easily accessible to many children, so the Kanneh-Mason siblings consider themselves fortunate. “We went to two amazing state schools that really supported music and encouraged us to continue music outside of school as well,” Jeneba, 18, a pianist and cellist, told the BBC.

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According to their website, all of the siblings attend or have attended London’s Royal Academy of Music and its primary and junior academies. However, they also credit their musical success to their parents. The Kanneh-Masons were raised in Nottingham, England, by their Sierra Leone-born mother, Kadiatu Kanneh, a former university lecturer, and their father, Stuart Mason, who is from Antigua and works for the luxury hotel chain Belmond.

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Both parents were excellent musicians as children but never pursued music professionally. Initially, the two simply wanted their children to enjoy music and play an instrument, with no regard for the lack of Black people in classical music. They had no idea that all seven would develop extraordinary musical abilities.

Everything began with Isata, their eldest child, who they wanted to learn to play the piano. So, at the age of eight, she was already enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music’s Junior Department. “From then on, my wife and I would regularly wake up early on a Sunday morning and hear them practicing in the bathroom,” Stuart told the Financial Times.

With her album of Clara Schumann’s music, Romance, Isata, who is currently signed to Decca, debuted at the top of the UK Official Classical Artist Chart. She performed with Elton John in Los Angeles in 2013 and has appeared on several television shows. Her siblings believe she had a significant impact on their musical careers. Konya, the fourth oldest child, attends The Royal Academy of Music. She has performed for Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall at Marlborough House in 2017, and for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at The Baftas in 2018.

Jeneba, her younger sister, has a Grade 8 Distinction in cello and performs with The Royal Academy of Music’s Sinfonia Orchestra as well as Chineke! Junior Orchestra, the leading UK ensemble comprised of BME musicians. Braimah also performs with the Chineke! Orchestra and the band Clean Bandit on violin. He’s even appeared on The X Factor and Top of the Pops with the band.

Aminata has a Grade 8 Distinction on the violin and a Grade 7 Distinction on the piano, and she has performed for royalty with her siblings. She is a member of The Royal Academy of Music’s Primary Academy. Mariatu, the youngest sibling, also performed for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in March 2017. The young music genius has Grade 4 Distinction on the cello.

Sheku, who has a local bus named after him, is the most well-known. He has recorded albums for the Decca label and toured the world. At the 2020 BBC Proms, he and Isata performed as a duo. Sheku’s celebrity, of course, has had an impact on the family, as more people are becoming interested in what they do, particularly their concerts.

However, the 21-year-old cellist credits his success to his older siblings, who are also doing well in a predominantly White music genre. His younger siblings are also thriving in the music industry, performing in solo and group concerts across the country.

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Written by How Africa News

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