South African cellist Abel Selaocoe is a rapidly rising star who 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 concertos and solo performances. Selaocoe combines virtuosic performance with improvisation, singing and body percussion, and is devoted to composing works and curating programmes that highlight the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions, broadening the horizons of classical music to reach a more diverse audience.
In 2016, Selaocoe formed Chesaba – a trio specializing in music from the African continent, including many of his own compositions. He enjoys close collaborations with musicians from a medley of genres, including Bernhard Schimpelsberger, Tim Garland, Seckou Keita, Giovanni Sollima, Famadou Don Moye and Gwilym Simcock. He has a close partnership with Manchester Collective, with whom he devised the hugely successful Sirocco programme which has been enjoyed both live and digitally by audiences since 2019. In 2020/21, Selaocoe performed at Kings Place, Norfolk & Norwich and Ryedale Festivals, and performed with ensembles including BBC Concert Orchestra at the EFG London Jazz Festival, Manchester Collective and Britten Sinfonia.
Selaocoe makes his solo BBC Proms debut in August 2021, curating a programme with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Chesaba and Gnawa Ensemble. Other highlights of the 2021/22 season include a tour with Manchester Collective and Chesaba of their new collaboration, The Oracle; debuts with St Paul Chamber Orchestra and at Stanford Live; and performances both solo and with Chesaba throughout the UK and Europe.
Selaocoe completed his International Artist Diploma at the Royal Northern College of Music in July 2018. In May 2021, he was announced as an inaugural Power Up Music Creator participant in PRS Foundation’s new initiative to address anti-Black racism and racial disparities in the music sector and in July 2021, he received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award for his compositional work.
Chesaba is an electrifying trio of African celebration featuring Abel Selaocoe, Alan Keary and Sidiki Dembélé - an eclectic blend of ’cello, kora, n’goni, African percussion, double bass and voice, accompanied by the languages of Bambara, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana and more. Embroidered through the music are improvisations influenced by African, jazz and classical music.
Chesaba has a vibrant and virtuosic rhythmic expression coupled with powerful traditional melodies. The music is made of a raw and colourful blend of African cultures, from Griot music – a tradition spanning centuries of civilisation in West Africa, being passed down through the generations, carrying with it an ancient culture of story-telling and musical celebration – to the soulful South African township music that expresses its powerful history.
As award-winning artists, they have played in prestigious venues and festivals including the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw’s Cello Biennale, WOMAD, Bimhuis, The Bridgewater Hall and Kings Place with Manchester Collective. The trio also has a passion for instilling diversity within its community through education and workshops.
Abel Selaocoe Vukani Bo! (African song about the awakening of a village or greeting song)
Debussy Sonata in D minor for Cello and Piano
Ravel Improvisation on Habanera
Schedrin Improvisation on Albeniz
Abel Selaocoe Di Kae! for Cello and Piano (South African piece about ancestral gratitude)
Britten Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major
Sir James MacMillan Kiss on Wood
Giovanni Sollima (arr. Abel Selaocoe) Lamentatio