Crotchety Man watched Later … with Jools Holland on the TV the other night. There was the usual mix of styles, centred around pop singer/songwriter and pop/rock bands. But one artist stood out. A very black countenance in a sea of Anglo-Saxon faces. A classical cellist among massed electronic instruments. Traditional African dress among conventional Western attire. And he sparkled like a diamond in a coal mine caught in the beam of the miner’s lamp.
His name is Abel Selaocoe.
South African cellist Abel Selaocoe is redefining the parameters of the cello. He moves seamlessly across a plethora of genres and styles, from collaborations with world musicians and beatboxers, to concerto performances and solo classical recitals. Abel combines virtuosic performance with improvisation, singing and body percussion, and has a special interest in curating recital programmes that highlight the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions, with view to helping classical music reach a more diverse audience.The Abel Selaocoe website
Abel Selaocoe released his debut album just last month. It is called Where Is Home (Hae Ke Kae). There is no question mark in the English part of the title, but we probably can’t read too much into that. The parentheses repeat the English phrase in the Sesotho language of Lesotho and South Africa. As a South African man now living in the UK, Selaocoe has a foot in two continents, and this is reflected in his compositions and performances.
Here’s his rendition of Ka Bohaleng / On the Sharp Side from the Jools Holland show:
Categorise that, if you can! Then consider this … Also on the album are: a classical cello sonata by Giovanni Benedetto Platti, two pieces by J. S. Bach and another eight tracks of his own compositions spanning styles from African folk songs to popular jazz.
Abel is a truly unique musician, whose musical voice is as heartfelt and honest as they come. This humanity, coupled with his immense technical facility as a cellist – and singer – makes him an absolute joy to listen to and to make music with.– Gwilym Simcock (jazz pianist)
Abel Selaocoe is the Nigel Kennedy of the cello. An African Sheku Kanneh-Mason. And a unique talent in his own right. He has completely dismantled the divide between classical and contemporary. And Crotchety Man welcomes him with open arms.