Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s family: everything you need to know about the Kanneh-Masons

11 December 2019, 13:32 | Updated: 11 December 2019, 13:36

Sheku is one of seven extraordinarily talented musical siblings, the Kanneh-Masons. But which instruments do they all play, and who are their parents?

Sheku Kanneh-Mason is a 20-year-old cellist who became a household name in 2018 when he played at the Royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

He won the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year award, becoming the first black musician to win the award since its launch in 1978.

The cellist has gone on to record acclaimed albums for the prestigious Decca label, toured the world and even graced the cover of GQ (all while completing his studies at London’s Royal Academy of Music).

Read more: Elton John on classical music and his Royal Academy training >

Royal Variety Performance 2019

Sheku’s a remarkable story, but it gets all the more special when you look at his family. Incredibly, Sheku’s six siblings, the Kanneh-Masons, all share exceptional musical talents.

In December 2019 they all played as a family on stage at the Royal Variety Performance, wowing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the audience, with Monti’s virtuosic Czárdás.

Left: the Kanneh-Masons; Right: Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason
Left: the Kanneh-Masons; Right: Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason. Picture: The Arts Desk; PA

You can watch that above, but for further proof of their musical pedigree (and the hard work they’ve put in practising and playing), here’s another vision of the same thrilling piece, recorded at their home in 2015.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason: ‘Every child would benefit from music lessons’ >

Isata Kanneh-Mason (23) plays the piano, Braimah (21) plays the violin and Konya (18) and Aminata (13) play both violin and piano. Jeneba (16) and the youngest Kanneh-Mason, Mariatu (9) play both cello and piano to a very high standard. Phew!

Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason
Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason. Picture: PA

Who are Sheku’s parents?

The Kanneh-Masons grew up in Nottingham, England to parents Stuart Mason, a business manager, and Dr Kadiatu Kanneh, a former university lecturer.

Both parents played musical instruments in their childhood, but never pursued music professionally. Born in Sierra Leone, Kadiatu used to lecture in literature at the University of Birmingham, while Stuart – whose family is from Antigua – works for Belmond, a luxury hotel chain.

After Sheku won BBC Young Musician of the Year, his mother told the Financial Times she had always been determined “never to remark on the lack of black people in classical music to our children”.

Did the Kanneh-Masons appear on Britain's Got Talent?

In 2015, Sheku and five of his siblings (excluding the youngest, eight-year-old Mariatu) all competed on Britain’s Got Talent together. They performed Csárdás in their first audition and sailed through with four Yes’s.

They made it to the semi-finals of the show, when they played a musical medley of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Prokofiev’s ‘Montagues and Capulets’, ‘Rather Be’ by Clean Bandit and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

Three years later, Sheku, Isata, Braimah, Konya and Jeneba played together at the 2018 BAFTA ceremony.

For Sheku, this marked the first time any artist had been invited to perform at the ceremony two years in a row, having played a cello arrangement of ‘Hallelujah’ at the 2017 ceremony.

What do the Kanneh-Mason siblings do?

Like his brother Sheku, 21-year-old Braimah Kanneh-Mason studies at the Royal Academy of Music. He is also member of The Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra and Chineke! Orchestra.

Braimah also plays violin with the band Clean Bandit, and has appeared with them on The X Factor and Top of the Pops. He even recorded with them on their No.1 single 'Rockabye'.

Isata Kanneh-Mason, 23, is signed to Decca and debuted at the top of the UK Official Classical Artist Chart with her album of Clara Schumann’s music, Romance.

Isata studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where she held the prestigious Sir Elton John Scholarship. She performed with Elton John in Los Angeles in 2013, and has performed on Channel 4, Al Jazeera TV and ITV's Born To Shine.

Sheku often plays with his two eldest siblings, Isata and Braimah, in a piano trio.

Isata Kanneh-Mason
Isata Kanneh-Mason. Picture: PA

Konya, the fourth eldest Kanneh-Mason, is also a student at The Royal Academy of Music, having been awarded the Gilling Family Scholarship.

Aged 18, Konya has already played to royalty twice, having performed at Marlborough House for Their Royal Highnesses Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall in 2017, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at The Baftas in 2018.

Her younger sister Jeneba, 16, gained Grade 8 Distinction on the piano aged nine, and won the Nellie Greenhill Memorial Prize from the Associated Board for the highest marks in the Nottingham area.

She also has Grade 8 Distinction on the cello and plays in The Royal Academy of Music’s Sinfonia Orchestra and in Chineke! Junior Orchestra.

Aminata Kanneh-Mason, 13, is a member of the Primary Academy at The Royal Academy of Music.

She has Grade 8 Distinction on the violin and Grade 7 Distinction on the piano, and has performed with the Kanneh-Masons to royalty and throughout the UK.

Nine-year-old Mariatu, the youngest Kanneh-Mason, already has Grade 4 Distinction on the cello. Although she did not appear with her siblings on Britain's Got Talent, she performed with the Kanneh-Masons for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in March 2017.

Find out more about the Kanneh-Masons on their website.