Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason is a former lecturer at Birmingham University and the mother of seven children. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, her third eldest was the first black musician to win BBC Young Musician in 2016 and performed at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Two of his siblings are also former BBC Young Musician category finalists and the eldest, pianist Isata, has also presented for the Proms. Collectively, the Kanneh-Masons have performed at the 2018 BAFTA Ceremony and concert halls across the world and, during the lockdown months, garnered huge audiences for their popular Facebook live performances from their family home in Nottingham. These precious moments of family life and music were beautifully captured in the BBC’s recent Imagine documentary. Her first book, a memoir entitled House of Music, Raising the Kanneh-Masons, was published in September 2020 by Oneworld.
HOUSE OF MUSIC: RAISING THE KANNEH-MASONS
Seven brothers and sisters. All of them classically trained musicians. One was Young Musician of the Year and performed for the royal family. The eldest has released her first album, showcasing the works of Clara Schumann. These siblings don’t come from the rarefied environment of elite music schools, but from a state comprehensive in Nottingham. How did they do it?
Their mother, Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, opens up about what it takes to raise a musical family in a Britain divided by class and race. What comes out is a beautiful and heartrending memoir of the power of determination, camaraderie and a lot of hard work. The Kanneh-Masons are a remarkable family. But what truly sparkles in this eloquent memoir is the joyous affirmation that children are a gift and we must do all we can to nurture them.
‘Riveting, taking in prejudice as well as sacrifice. There are 4.30am starts, lost instruments, fractured wrists, all captured with vivid flourishes. A paean to camaraderie.’
‘An amazing, compelling, moving, unforgettable story…’
‘The unique story of a unique family. Unique? Well I can’t think of any other family with seven children, all of whom are prodigiously talented musicians. Kadie gives a glorious account of how she and husband Stuart came to realise that from the earliest age their children communicated through music. She gives an honest account of the burdens as well as the joys, as she and Stuart knew they had a duty to fulfil, which imposed enormous financial strain on them. Now they can relish their children’s achievements — including Sheku’s performance at a royal wedding — and know all the sacrifice was worth it. Kadie combines this with a searing account of growing up as a mixed-race child in the Britain of the 70s. A deeply intimate and honest read on so many levels.’
‘The Kanneh-Masons are a unique family and the family’s matriarch, Kadiatu, has written a suitably unique and fascinating account of how day-to-day life works in an extraordinary household.’
‘Having just spent time working with my friend Sheku at Abbey Road it’s wonderful to read about him and his terrific family. All the DNA that makes him one of the most important classical musicians – actually make that ‘all around’ musicians – of his generation is captured so well in this loving book.’
‘This book is about hard work, determination and a triumph against the odds. It is truly inspirational!’