The Kanneh-Mason siblings: Records That Changed My Life


4th Nov 2020 Music

The Kanneh-Mason siblings: Records That Changed My Life

Five of the seven extraordinarily talented Kanneh-Mason siblings, Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konya and Jeneba, reveal the records that shaped them  

Songs of the Birds by Pablo Casals (Sheku) 

The record I have chosen is an album of encores from the Spanish cellist and composer Pablo Casals. I love the personality and vocal quality of his playing—he’s a cellist who has always inspired me, and he did so much to champion the instrument during the mid-20th century in terms of solo performance and recording.  

He played on a cello with gut strings, and this created a different possibility in terms of the sound world. The personality of every note shines through! I have played the title track “Song of the Birds”—a traditional Catalan carol—many times in my live performances. 


Survival by Bob Marley & the Wailers (Konya) 

I love this record from Bob Marley & the Wailers, released in October 1979. I associate it with family visits to my grandma’s house as a child—we’d sit in front of her stereo and listen to the songs back to back. We had the music playing around the house on repeat.  

One of my favourite tracks on the album is “Babylon System”. Perhaps in one of our next jamming sessions we could try it out as a new arrangement! We recently recorded our own arrangement of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, which features on our new album Carnival, so his music is a firm favourite of all of ours. 


Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto/Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major by Martha Argerich/Claudio Abbado (Isata)   

This record from 1995 is one of my favourites, and Martha Argerich was a real inspiration to me growing up. Listening to her play takes me back to the early years of my life at home in Nottingham, but I actually discovered this particular recording more recently through the wonders of streaming platforms.  

These are two of my favourite piano concertos and I love how full of life this recording sounds. There’s so much detail in Argerich’s playing—you can hear a whole orchestra within her solo performance. It’s incredibly difficult for a pianist to reach the level of detail and tone colour that Argerich achieves; she turns what is in many ways a percussive instrument into something quite magical.  


The Complete Recordings by Josef Hassid (Braimah) 

 My choice is an album of violin encores by the Polish violinist Josef Hassid, essentially a collection of singles that he released during his short life. Hassid died very young, aged 26, and these recordings were made when he was just a teenager. I was inspired to play the violin after watching a documentary film called The Art of the Violin featuring archival footage of many of the instrument's greatest players.  

One section looked at particularly young violinists and the one story that really stuck with me was Josef Hassid’s. Fritz Kreisler (a renowned Austrian-American violinist and composer) said at the time that violinists like Jascha Heifetz come around once every 100 years, and violinists like Hassid every 200 years, so that gives you an idea of his profile at the time. 


Complete RCA Recordings by Sergei Rachmaninoff (Jeneba) 

I’ve chosen this record because it includes original recordings of Rachmaninoff’s music, played by the composer himself, recorded over the course of a lifetime! His Second Piano Concerto has always been my favourite piece.  

No one really plays like him, it’s very special—what he does with time, rubato, sound and voicing is truly unique. He had all of these techniques at his disposal and he took risks in a way that many pianists, perhaps interpreting other composers’ music, don’t take. He’s one of those pianists where you can listen to him play the same piece 50 times and each version will still surprise you!  



The  Kanneh-Masons  release  Carnival  with Olivia Colman and Michael Morpurgo on  November 6 

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