Teenage cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has become the first artist to receive the brand new BRIT Certified Breakthrough Award, after selling 30,000 copies of his debut album ‘Inspiration’ in the UK. He has also surpassed 100,000 album sales worldwide – a major milestone for any artist and an astonishing feat for a classical debut.


The Breakthrough Award is an extension of the famous Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards – certified by The BRIT Awards and record labels body the BPI and issued to recording artists upon achieving notable sales landmarks.


Sheku’s first album – a selection of his favourite music, from Shostakovich to Bob Marley, recorded with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – has been flying high in the charts since its release in January, when he became the youngest cellist to ever to break into the UK Top 20. Following the Royal Wedding, where he was personally invited to perform by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, his album has been catapulted to worldwide success.


Sheku’s recording is the top selling classical album for 2018 in the UK with 13 weeks at No.1 (the longest an artist has held that position this year) and No.1 on the classical charts in the US, France, Australia and New Zealand. He also topped Billboard’s Emerging Artist chart in the US – the first classical musician ever to do so.


Sheku Kanneh-Mason says: “It’s so amazing to be given this BRIT Certified Award and I’m still overwhelmed by the incredible response to the album from around the world. I’m so happy that people are continuing to enjoy my playing and I hope it encourages them to explore music further.”


Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards – the body that certifies the Awards, adds: “Sheku has enjoyed a remarkable 12 months, winning over an army of fans and numerous accolades, including two Classic BRIT Awards. It’s hard to think of a worthier recipient of the first BRIT Certified Breakthrough Award to be presented, and I am sure that Gold and Platinum discs will now follow!


Dr. Alexander Buhr, Managing Director of the Decca Classical Label Group, comments: “We are incredibly proud of Sheku. It is a great sign that a classical musician is the first artist to receive this new award, proving once more the power and appeal of this genre. Sheku is a unique artist who couldn’t deserve this more, and it’s important to remember that his career has only just begun!”


Sheku’s extraordinary year continues to be filled with exciting live performances around the world, including dates in the US, Switzerland and France. He recently performed at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, just weeks after picking up 2 Classic BRIT Awards at the same venue.


Tonight, Sheku makes his debut at the Edinburgh International Festival, reuniting with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto at the Usher Hall. It’ll be his first public performance in Scotland and promises to be an exciting debut for this exceptional young artist.




19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason first garnered public attention as winner of BBC Young Musician 2016. He made his BBC Proms debut the following year, and released his first album, ‘Inspiration’, earlier this year on Decca Classics. It entered the Top 20 in the Official UK Albums Chart, making him the youngest cellist ever to do so, and he also became one of this year’s biggest breakthrough artists – across any genre. His beautiful cello arrangement of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ went viral worldwide.


Sheku has been on a whirlwind adventure in the past two years – performing twice at the BAFTAs, playing at 10 Downing Street for the 30th anniversary of Black History Month, making his Carnegie Hall debut, performing at Paris Fashion Week, as well as high-profile TV appearances (including two BBC documentaries) and a busy international concert career. His performance at the Royal Wedding garnered huge public attention with Vanity Fair describing him as “the cellist who stole hearts” and Esquire calling him a “cello rockstar”.


Sheku is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music. He is passionate about making classical music accessible to all and is Junior Ambassador for the music education charity London Music Masters. He comes from an incredible musical family in which all 6 of his siblings (he is the third child of 7) play instruments to a phenomenally high standard – yet neither parents are musicians.




The BPI administers and certifies The BRIT Certified Awards – the iconic Platinum, Gold and Silver Awards Programme, which recognises and celebrates the success and popularity of music recordings and videos released in the UK.


Based on Official Charts data since 1994, and which since 2014 (Singles) and 2015 (Albums) respectively also reflects consumption through audio streaming, The BRIT Certified Awards confer Silver, Gold and Platinum status on Singles and Albums once designated commercial thresholds are achieved.


Singles are awarded Silver for 200,000 combined unit sales and streams, Gold for 400,000, and Platinum for 600,000.


For Albums the thresholds are lower: 60,000 combined sales/streams achieving Silver status, 100,000 Gold and 300,000 Platinum.  Recordings can also attain Multiple certification status – for example, an album that has sold 3 million copies (including converted audio streams) is denoted as having gone 10x Platinum.  There is also a Breakthrough Award category, which recognises an artist’s first album to reach 30,000 sales in the UK.