Sheku is selling Meghan millions

Sheku is selling Meghan millions


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2018

Message from Decca:

Sheku Kanneh-Mason wowed the world at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last weekend, and now he’s dominating the charts on both sides of the Atlantic – hitting No.1 on the US and UK Amazon charts and No.1 on the US iTunes charts with his debut album ‘Inspiration’.

Sheku’s album is No.11 on the Official UK Album Chart – the highest ever chart position for a cello player – and it’s set to reach the Top 20 on the US Billboard Album Chart too, the first time a British cellist has ever achieved this feat. His classical album (which ranges from Shostakovich to Bob Marley) is vying for chart attention alongside major pop stars like Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. It is simultaneously No.1 in the UK Classical Chart, No.10 on the Scottish Album Chart and No.10 on the CD Albums Chart. He has over 355,000 new followers on social media platforms, which means he’s expected to enter in Billboard’s ‘Social 50’ chart, alongside the likes of Ariana Grande, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa.



  • John Borstlap says:

    Great…. let nobody say that royal weddings are meaningless. All the tax money invested in such happy occasions returns to cultural advance.

    • Caravaggio says:

      But what cultural advance? From Shostakovich to ….. Bob Marley? Mind you, I have nothing against Marley who, in his genre, was a highly persuasive musician and performer and great songwriter. But Marley’s music just does not belong in any self respecting classical musician’s repertoire. To do so constitutes a cynical commercial gimmick. I wish this young man well, of course, and would like to add more about my issues with the business of identity politics but I will not. Instinct and civics tell me to keep my trap shut.

      • V.Lind says:

        “But Marley’s music just does not belong in any self respecting classical musician’s repertoire.”

        Are you sure you mean this? Why should a very young musician cut himself off from any musical genre, let alone one that probably has a lot of resonance for him? It is clear that he has studied properly and can play classical repertoire, so why should he not relax into something he enjoys from another avenue of his life? That the Marley may not belong on a so-called classical album is one thing, but surely the wider a player’s repertoire, the fresher and more vigorous his interpretation of anything he/she plays.

        • John Borstlap says:

          No, Caravaggio is right. If a good performer needs to ‘relax’ with entertainment music, that is OK, but to include it on a CD which is supposed to be a classical music disc, it is ridiculous. You don’t add a little vanille ice cream to a pasta bolognese.

      • Alex Davies says:

        I just listened to his cello version of No Woman No Cry. I can’t say I liked it very much, but then I have never heard the original song. In fact, I don’t think I have ever heard anything by Bob Marley. However, my ignorance of Bob Marley notwithstanding, I don’t see why it should be necessarily problematic for a classical musician to incorporate popular music into his or her repertoire. Nigel Kennedy has done it very effectively with Fats Waller and Gershwin. A hundred years ago people were disparaging about classical music absorbing elements of folk music. Shostakovich and Stravinsky (and of course numerous 20th-century American composers) absorbed jazz influences in their classical compositions. So I don’t see anything wrong in principle with a classical cellist playing Bob Marley. I just didn’t happen to like it.

        • Michelle says:

          Agreed. People need to open their minds and get over their highly limiting pseudo intellectual political labels and learn how to enjoy life before they disappear up their own petty opinionated anuses.

        • Dave T says:

          “…absorbing elements [of folk music]…”, “….absorbed [jazz] influence…”

          Those are words are key. The differences are substantive compared to merely transcribing Bob Marley for the cello and playing it straight-up.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        What cultural advance?

        He has moved people to stop and think about a classical instrument who would never have done it otherwise.

        He’s gotten them to put out money to hear it. Some will pass on by but some will get hooked.

        A number of young people will see that and think , “hmmm, maybe it would be cool to learn a real instrument, maybe even the cello, instead of spending hours on a fake one like ‘Guitar Hero’ ”

        It is classic classical music commenter fault-finding to assert that if he hasn’t completely saved the dying classical music scene with this one brief appearance and one album then he must be a fraud.

    • Vincent DiMello says:

      Yes, but this album is not a classical album at all. It is a commercial gimmick laced with popular tunes and riding the temporary fame of a performer briefly in the spotlight. It is no indication of a surge in cultural appreciation or an uptick in demand for or recognition of classical music.

      • John Borstlap says:

        If this is so, then the performer can use the money he earns with this thing to embark upon a more serious project. And meanwhile monarchy has demonstrated some of its usefullness.

      • Maria says:

        I think that’s a very cynical way of looking at it.

        As Robert Holmén points out, if some listeners discover that these stuffy old instruments are highly expressive and rewarding to listen to, no harm done. We can’t assume these days that all young people have at least some exposure to purely acoustic instruments.

        In my experience, they are totally off the radar in many cases.

  • Bill says:

    Yeah, but he missed out on his LA debut!!! How will he ever recover? Lawrence Kershaw really nailed that call…

  • Andy says:

    My favorite prank video from the wedding features Kanneh-Mason.

  • MacroV says:

    Well, he’ll get a nice royalty check, I assume. And a couple years from now, as you look over your casual classical-music-fan friend’s shelf of CDs (if they’re still around), you’ll see this one collecting dust, maybe along with the Gorecki 3 and the Cambridge Buskers.

    • Maria says:

      Another cynic.

      Yes, some will collect dust. So what?

      If a minority decide they actually like the cello, that’s a bonus isn’t it?

  • Stan says:

    ‘this album is not a classical album at all. It is a commercial gimmick laced with popular tunes and riding the temporary fame of a performer briefly in the spotlight.’………“But Marley’s music just does not belong in any self respecting classical musician’s repertoire.”.

    Both of these comments seem uninformed, ignorant and represent a very small minority of the classical music community which steeps itself in relatively newly formed ‘traditions’ whilst simultaneously stifling any form of artistic advancement in the world of classical music.

    Sheku has achieved unimaginable things in a short space of time. But his achievements can be documented throughout his life (gaining the highest grade 8 mark at age 9, scholarship to RAM, BBC young musician etc).

    Sheku is remarkably skilled but in addition a large number of his supporters, from RAM professors to Young Musician adjudicators feel he plays with a sense of soul rarely found in classical music.

    I’m not sure why the above commentators feel this is not a ‘classical album’s due to the eclectic nature of it’s subject matter. But I’d suggest they decide which subject matter/ethnic style is suitable for their classical collection and throw anything else out that references the cultures that offend them. This would include works by Dvorak, Bizet, Verdi, Gershwin perhaps.

  • Alex Davies says:

    The Tallis, If ye love me, was very well sung, and I was very pleased that they had chosen a work by a Tudor composer, one of the greatest achievements of English culture, but one sadly neglected at other state occasions in favour of inferior composers like Parry and Walton.

    Much as I love Eternal source of light divine (and who doesn’t?), I was disappointed by Elin Manahan Thomas. I have heard her sing better than she did on the day, but the real fault lay with whoever decided to assign the piece to a soprano rather than a countertenor. She also, inexplicably, sang the same piece at the opening ceremony for the London Olympics. I’ve actually only heard the piece live once, performed on that occasion by William Purefoy, who was wonderful. Tim Mead would have been a good choice or, continuing the transatlantic theme, David Daniels.

    But, oh dear, the Rutter! Whose idea was that, I wonder? I do not like Rutter’s church music in general, but that piece I particularly dislike. I actually rather like his The Wind in the Willows. Listen to the anthem The Lord Bless You and Keep You and to the song Home is a Special Kind of Feeling and you will easily see the similarities. The difference is that one is a lightweight, sentimental song for anthropomorphic wild animals, whereas the other is a setting of the priestly blessing.

    Is the Boyce popular at weddings? I couldn’t help thinking that only at a British royal wedding would the couple process out to Boyce. If they did want to eschew the traditional organ music (Dupré’s Prelude and Fugue in B, Vierne’s Cortège, or of course the ever popular Toccata by Widor) there are surely much better pieces to choose from. Perhaps something like Sound the Trumpet or Come Ye Sons of Art.

    Is the hymn O God of Earth and Altar never sung these days? It’s much better than the ones the chose, and the words are apposite!

    • Squagmogleur says:

      I’m sure we are all interested in the pieces of choral music by John Rutter that you like and don’t like. ‘If Ye Love Me’ by Tallis was a very welcome inclusion to the service. Walton’s ‘Set Me A a Seal’ is another gem of the choral repertoire and would have been an equally appropriate and welcome choice.

    • RAZZ MATAZZ says:

      Iestyn Davies would have been another good choice for “Eternal Source of Light Divine”.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Trevor Noah (the biracial South African comic) got big laughs for his [pretty racist] Sheku joke: “Black cellist? Those two things cancel each other out.”

  • Peter says:

    What is it with the people who comment on this column ? Marley’s music doesn’t belong…. Classical musicians shouldn’t play …
    Classical musicians are better than others…
    A musician can (try to) play whatever music from whatever origin speaks to them. And when making commercial recordings, presumably will record whatever they think will speak to their target listeners.
    Please, stop being so pretentious.

    • John Borstlap says:

      An example of the egalitarian world view, which appears to promote freedom of taste, and thus finds quality distinctions nonsensical and unfair; also the underdeveloped, silly, primitive and ignorant has a right to exist. Your taste is as good as any taste. This is the result of all the emancipatory movements in the last century, which had a start with the 19C democratic revolutionary movements of the bourgeoisie.

      But this egalitarian view is confusing two different levels. Of course every person has the right on his/her own tastes in things cultural or entertainment, there is nothing wrong with this. But that does not mean that in culture there are no distinctions, since the very notion of culture implies distinction, it is the fruit of exceptional effort and exceptional talent and these things are rare. This rarity is not ‘unfair’ and ‘excluding the lack of talent’ but is merely a state of facts: this is how humanity is composed, it is nobody’s fault. We expect expertise from surgeons, dentists, accountants, plumbers – is this unfairly excluding people without such skills? So, critique upon such egalitarian views is not looking down upon people but putting such views where they belong, to the corner of ignorance.

      To level everything down to one grey mass so that everybody can grasp it, is destroying human capital.

  • Nick2 says:

    Obviously I am not the only one who finds most of the comments above totally ridiculous! The fact is – this young man amazed a vast number of people with his playing on the live broadcast (watched by how many hundred million worldwide?). Some have been persuaded to purchase one or more of his recordings. How many of these people will be attracted to classical music and music for the cello as a result? I have no idea. But the very fact that he has become obviously extremely popular is a splendid tribute both to his talent and his television personality. That can only be good for the the further development of classical music in the long run.

    Lest we forget. A soprano, well-known in musical circles, became a popular superstar overnight after singing at Prince Charles’ Wedding. How many people became fans of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the music she sang as a result? Far more than we probably know.

  • Allen says:

    Wasn’t it P T Barnum who said “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”?

    There is bad publicity for classical music but this certainly isn’t it. Genuine classical musician playing an assortment of stuff. Some people will buy it on impulse and only listen to it once or twice, others a little more. It’s probably only a minority that will be tempted to explore further, but that’s OK. Classical music is a minority thing, we already know that.

    I hope people realise that there are other string players out there, but I don’t see a problem with this album at all.

  • Marva says:

    Sheku was amazing!!!!