In 2015 the Kanneh-Mason family burst into living rooms across the UK with their appearances on Britain’s Got Talent, thrilling audiences with a selection of their classical music.
Just one year later, cellist Sheku proved his stellar musicianship beyond doubt by winning the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition, the first black musician to take the title. Then in 2018 he became a household name, playing at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to a global TV audience of 2 billion people.
The talented siblings – Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu – play violin, cello and piano, and several of them play more than one instrument. As a family, they’ve performed at the Bafta Awards, wowed audiences at the Royal Variety Show, released an album ‘Carnival’ and in 2021 received the Global Award for Best Classical Artist.
They continue to enchant the wider British public and blaze a trail for classical music with appearances on Strictly Come Dancing and BBC TV Christmas Day special. They’ve also been the subject of a BBC 4 documentary ‘Young, Gifted and Classical’ and a ground-breaking lockdown portrait of the family was filmed for BBC 1’s Imagine series, ‘This House is Full of Music’.
Parents Stuart Mason, a business executive, and Dr Kadiatu Kanneh, a former lecturer in English at the University of Birmingham, both played musical instruments to a high standard but not professionally. In 2020, Kadiatu published her inspiring memoir ‘House of Music – Raising the Kanneh-Masons’, a story about love and determination, race and education, and of a mother and her seven phenomenally talented children, dubbed by The Times as “Britain’s most musical family”.
In recent years, cellist Sheku and pianist Isata have been working together. They’ve followed up their first recording ‘Muse’, with a triumphant tour of the US and Canada earlier this year and they play at Symphony Hall, a B:Music venue, on 10 July.
Written by Fiona Fraser