Renowned cello star Abel Selaocoe left townships of Johannesburg to make music in Manchester

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist, Emma Sweeney.


A renowned musician from South Africa who has made Manchester his home is taking the classical music world by storm with his cello.

Abel Selaocoe grew up in a township just outside Johannesburg before securing a place at Manchester's prestigious Royal Northern College of Music.

As his international reputation as a musician continues to grow, he has decided to stay in the North West, and has just released his first album.

Abel chats to Granada Reports journalist Emma Sweeney.

Abel is a master when it comes to weaving the voices of his ancestors into Western classical music and is regarded as one of the most captivating and versatile musicians in the UK.

But it took a long journey to get to where he is now. Born in 1992 in a township called Sebokeng, near Johannesburg, Abel's father was a mechanic and his mother was a cleaner.

His older brother took him at the age of 11 to a Saturday morning music school in Soweto.

His parents could not afford to buy him a cello, so he only had access to one at the music school once a week - which was shared by other pupils.

Practice was impossible, but he used a stick to work on holding the bow and used the time to listen to lots of music. After a year the school got him a donated cello.

Abel enjoyed a jamming session with Emma, who is a well known fiddle player.

After gaining a schloarship to a prestigious private school in Johannesburg, Abel spent time in America before heading to the UK to audition for various music schools.

The one that appealed most was the Royal Northern College in Manchester: “It felt like a good hub of creativity.

"I wanted to play classical music but also wanted to be introduced to other people’s music and in Manchester I found much more access to that.” he said.

Abel settled in Manchester in 2010 and it was there he met the musicians that are now in his band Cheseba. He also plays with the Manchester Collective. 

His music includes collaborations with world musicians and beatboxers, to concertos and solo shows, combining performance with improvisation, singing and body percussion.

Abel's work is dedicated to highlighting the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions.

Credit: Warner Classical

Abel has just released his debut album 'Where is Home (Hae Ke Kae) - the African title is in Sesotho, which draws on many of his unique musical influences.  

“Home is the place that empowers you, it’s not only a geographical place but in people as well, where you can live a life of empowerment and not of oppression.

"I’ve learned to find my different homes through the cello.”

As well as being Artist in Residence at London’s Southbank Centre, Abel is set to play multiple shows in the US, Germany and Belgium over the next few months.


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