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Where is Home (Abel Selaocoe)

Abel Selaocoe (cello, vocals) and guests, incl. Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo) (Warner Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Where is Home (Hae Ke Kae)
Works by JS Bach, BG Platti and Abel Selaocoe
Abel Selaocoe (cello, vocals) and guests, incl. Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo)
Warner Classics 9029622433   55:18 mins

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Since graduating  in 2018 from the Royal Northern College of Music, following studies in his native South Africa, Abel Selaocoe has been hugely in-demand. Few cellists can boast playing at WOMAD, the London Jazz Festival and filling the Queen Elizabeth Hall. No wonder Yo-Yo Ma guests on one track: Selaocoe embodies Ma’s vision of a truly multicultural musical future.

Cellist, singer, composer and collaborator, Selaocoe inhabits a captivating sphere of spontaneous, mercurial creativity. Where is Home explores the African traditions and Western Baroque music that have shaped him. Most moving is the evocation of his mother singing a counter melody as he practised the Sarabande from Bach’s Suite No. 3. He draws these worlds together, again, in GB Platti’s Sonata No. 7, where movements are delivered with theorbo (Elizabeth Kenny), before dissolving into a cloud of celestial kora/cello melismas (Kadialy Kouyate).

In Selaocoe’s hands the cello is a shape-shifter: in Zawose it’s a Tanzanian one-string ‘zeze’, high and airy; in Ka Bohaleng multi-phonic, virtuosic; in the tender Lerato it provides the percussive ‘beat on Bibles’, while Seipore offers a dazzling shuffle through his improvisational armoury. Song is the dominant form: everything flows from his own extraordinary voice, a soothing baritone that can plunge into unfathomable bass via Xhosa-style throat singing. His excellent collaborators here include members of Chesaba and Manchester Collective, Alice Zawadzki and pianist and producer Fred Thomas. It’s a fine taster menu: now I urge you to hear him live to experience his intoxicating charisma.

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Helen Wallace