Based: Cape Town
Selim Kagee, South Africa’s premier classical crossover artist, described as part Bocelli, a smidgen of Groban, with a slice of Pavarotti and a bead of Bublé – he is fast putting his inimitable signature on a sound the world continues to love and support.
Selim has made his debut into the world of classical pop music after being signed to the international label EMI in 2012. He has subsequently released his debut album ‘Cry For Love’ (Piango D’Amore).
His stellar 12-track album of contemporary classical pop music has been a work and dream that has evolved over the past 20 years for the Cape Town born and-raised musician.
I’ve always had a great desire to perform and express myself creatively” Kagee admits. Supplementing his artistic streak, Kagee dabbled in sculpture, drawing and graphic design – the latter becoming his formal profession. Backtracking 15 years, Kagee’s burning desire to perform led him to a youth drama group. “I was the oldest student there,” he recalls with a smile. “I was 19, and all the other students were school going age, but I didn’t let that distract me. Six weeks later we performed a skit to a small room of 20 or 30 parents. From that moment the performance bug bit hard.”
A gap year in the UK followed, and while staying with an uncle, Kagee made quick work of immersing himself in every style of music he could. “I bought a few singing training CD’s and with serious determination I decided that I wanted to learn to sing,” he recalls. “I sang for five hours every day, and became obsessed with wanting to sing.”
It wasn’t until his return to South Africa in 2001 that Kagee found a vocal coach in the late Jean Stuart (a retired opera singer) who, in his words, “taught me to sing. She took me under her wing and trained me from scratch for over a decade, giving me countless hours of vocal training at the piano. Her dedication to my growth and her belief in me was priceless. I realised that besides a bit of inherent talent, singing is a technique that could be learnt if one has a strong desire. I continue to grow and learn as a singer and musician, but if wasn’t for Jean I don’t think I would have found my true voice.”
His album, Cry For Love (Piango D’Amore) is dedicated to her legacy.
By 2002 Kagee began auditioning, and was soon accepted for lead roles in theatre productions such as The Sound Of Music, The Boyfriend, Annie Get Your Gun and many more. “It was a great learning ground to perform onstage with an orchestra,” he recollects. “With all the exposure to live performance and singing I knew that I had the aptitude, but I wanted and needed to carve out my own voice.”
In 2009 Kagee signed up for a song-writing course and began taking guitar lessons with respected songwriter and producer Clive Ridgway, who recognised the marketability of his voice, and before long the two embarked on a journey of recording a few demos that culminated in EMI Music signing Kagee to the international label as a classical pop artist.
His album consists of an eclectic mix of original compositions and interesting interpretations of popular gems, peppered with pop, classical and cinematic influences – all giving Kagee’s voice the opportunity to showcase its warmth and sincerity.
They include songs co-written with Ridgway and recorded with the Cape Town POPS orchestra.
“It´s not very often that a new artist gets to record with an orchestra, but we all realised that this was the right way to capture the music authentically.” says Kagee.
Classic Feel magazine described him as “an impressive new, proudly South African addition to the adult contemporary and crossover fields of which these four greats (Bocelli, Groban, Pavarotti and Buble) are among the most well-known exemplars”. Die Burger Newspaper agreed, calling him “Cape Town’s own Bocelli”. Audio Video Magazine said, “His voice is fluid, rich, well trained and easily able to perform the lovely romantic, ballad style he has chosen.”
Selim’s live show boasts an impressive 28-piece orchestra with dazzling virtuoso musicians that provide a high quality of musicianship combined with outstanding showmanship. Songs include O Sole Mio, Il Mondo, Parla Piu Piano (The Godfather theme song), Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, and his anthem-like original English / Italian title-track Cry For Love, all cleverly woven through interesting and humourous anecdotes of his life.
Highlights of his career thus far include recording a duet with Irish supergroup Celtic Woman on their 2012 Christmas Album, singing the South African anthem in Australia and performing live at the Sergio Franchee Memorial Concert, an open air event held in Connecticut, USA in August 2014.
Enchanting at every turn, Selim Kagee’s fans can rest assured he’s locking down for the long haul with nothing less than the very best his God-given voice can muster.