Selaocoe’s passion for the cello has seen him move all the way from the impoverished streets of Sebokeng, south of Johanneburg, to studying music and playing in esteemed orchestra halls in the United Kingdom.

Abel (21) describes himself as a “fortunate person who has been exposed to the ugly and the beautiful side of South Africa.” It was  the “ugly side” of South Africa that made him escape into his music. Speaking to DESTINY at his home during a visit from school in the UK, Abel said music introduced him to the beautiful side of life.

“I believe these two contradicting worlds have formed who Abel is today, and it’s been a long journey to get to where I am today,” he says smiling.

Chance encounter

Abel fell in love with classical music by chance.  When he was nine-years-old he used to tag along when his older brother, Sammy Selaocoe, attended bassoon lessons at the African Cultural Organisation of South Africa (Acosa) in Johannesburg (Bassoon is a woodwind instrument, which features prominently in orchestras). It was there, where Abel fell in love with classical music and joined Acosa to learn how to play an instrument. He chose the cello.

“It started out as a hobby. After I was introduced to the instrument, I would come back from school and take my cello and practice. It takes a bit of time to get into it, but when you do, you get introduced to this new world. A world you shape and mould using music and your imagination,” he says.

Within a short space of time, Abel was swept away. The cello became his world. His relentless passion and hours of practice finally paid off when he was awarded a scholarship at the prestigious St. John’s College in Johannesburg, through Acosa.

“Coming from Sebokeng and going to a place like St. John’s was like paradise to me,” he says, wistfully. But paradise didn’t come without challenges. Abel had to adopt English as a first language and had to make sure he had good grades in all his subjects.

“Music remained at the top of my list, of course, but the college was more of an academic school – students are encouraged to be all-rounders, and I really had difficulty maintaining my academics.

“I fought hard to stay in the school, and it paid off, because it was at the school that I became sure of my musical path.”