Abel Selaocoe finds a home by chance

At St John’s, Selaocoe dreamed of moving to Europe, and his classmates romanticized the continent into “a mecca of classical music, of musical expression”, he said. After studying with the teacher Michael Masotewho was once one of the most influential vocalists in South African classical music, Selaocoe finally made his leap in 2010, when he enrolled at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in 2010. 18 years old.

Despite classical training in the cello, everything has its roots in singing for Selaocoe. “My voice does things that my body can’t imagine, but my musical ability can,” he said at lunch near his home in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a south Manchester suburb.

Selaocoe learns to sing in the same way one can acquire a language as a child: “by watching adults do it and copy them”. Growing up, his parents, a domestic helper and a mechanic, taught him cultural and church rituals. About six years ago, a friend gave Selaocoe umngqokolo, a South African form of polyphonic singing, which, he said, added a new dimension to the musician’s already charismatic performances.

His on-stage request at Bridgewater Hall for audiences to join in the performance epitomizes Selaocoe’s belief in the unifying power of the voice. During rehearsals for the 2018 Manchester Collective, “Sirocco,” Selaocoe “will sing things to show off to the other members of the group,” Adam Szabo, the group’s chief executive, said in an interview. recent phone call. “We pushed him to do that on the show, which he hasn’t done much before.” Now, says Szabo, he’s honed his singing in his practice, “it’s a great mix of different influences.”

Over lunch, Selaocoe often returned to the idea that “singing is very popular”. But that universality also has its limits. For journalist and music author Ansell, “the song is universal, it’s universal for people to sing it, but in reality it’s not the language, the meaning, the discourse.”

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