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.
Having completed his International Artist Diploma at the Royal Northern College of Music in July 2018, Abel has already performed extensively across the UK, at venues including Cadogan Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Sage Gateshead, and Bridgewater Hall. He has appeared as soloist with orchestras including BBC Philharmonic and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and has performed with orchestras across South Africa, including Kwa-Zulu Natal, Johannesburg and Cape Town Philharmonics.
Abel is a keen chamber musician, having made his Wigmore Hall debut in 2013 with composer Colin Matthews. He is the co-founder of BBC Introducing ensemble Kabantu, and in 2016 formed Chesaba – a trio specializing in music from the African continent, including compositions by Abel. He has enjoyed close collaborations with musicians from a medley of genres, including Tim Garland, Seckou Keita, Giovanni Sollima, Gwilym Simcock, and 12ensemble. In recent seasons, Abel has curated programmes at Kings Place, the Aldeburgh & Oxford Chamber Music Festivals, and has performed in both the late night BBC Proms, and BBC Proms Extra series.
Abel has recently been selected for Serious Music’s Take Five - a development scheme for the UK’s most talented jazz composer-performers, and has been the recipient of multiple awards, including the Standard Bank Young Artists Award and the Sir Karl Jenkins Award in association with Classic FM. He is grateful to Help Musicians UK for awarding him the Karl Motesiczky Scholarship.
"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 is a special musician, fantastic cellist, everything he plays - from baroque to contemporary - sounds beautiful, improviser, singer with an intense and magical voice. When I heard him it was so strong that I thought it was a tale about the world. Then I realised, Abel is a beautiful person with a deep soul, that's why his music is so beautiful."
- Giovanni Sollima
“The Collective has specific guests they invite to work with them: on this occasion, the astonishing South African cellist Abel Selaocoe and the drummer Yahael Onono…“
“The Manchester-based band ranged from Brazil and Bulgaria to South Africa and Scotland in a rousing display of fine musicianship”
"It was this versatility, along with the voices and moods that the instrument is capable of, that young cellist Abel Selaocoe wished to demonstrate with his eclectic programme for his recital which took place in the Beethoven Room at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown."
"...not just a proficient player of the cello, but a virtuoso... made you almost believe that he was a native of Elgar’s Malvern Hills, Herefordshire"
Stuart Millson, Endnotes
"He led the band through a rousing, soulful treatment of the traditional Ulidzile! ... Remarkably, he succeeded, inspiring enthusiastic three-part harmonies from the crowd"
Robin Denselow, The Guardian
"Another revelation was the performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, played by a rising star of classical music, Abel Selaocoe. Originally from South Africa’s townships, Mr. Selaocoe – through determination, ambition and his God-given talent for music – rose through various conservatories, to become not just a proficient player of the cello, but a virtuoso: a man on the threshold of what could be international acclaim. The soloist interpreted one of the most instantly recognisable English works in the repertoire with a feeling and emotion which made you almost believe that he was a native of Elgar’s Malvern Hills, Herefordshire and the land of the Severn. One of the great tests of the concerto is the devilishly-difficult second movement, an Allegro Molto – a rapid, darting, whirligig passage which requires nimble manoeuvres, quick wits, utter concentration and panache. Abel Selaocoe passed the test with flying colours, and brought the Concerto to a majestic conclusion – summarising all of Elgar’s autumnal colour and deep-seated nostalgia."
"This year's Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Music, cellist Abel Selaocoe (24), is a shining example of a musician pushing the limits. "Abel is quickly becoming a consummate artist possessing great skill, command and flair on the cello. Coming from humble beginnings in Sebokeng, he has ascended to perform on world stages, combining a new eclectic sound with the mainstream..."