Of Beat-Box, Acapella and Cellos
Son of a Nigerian psychiatrist and a Grenadian nurse, Kevin Olusola grew up in the small town of Owensboro, Kentucky, United States. At an early age, Olusola began learning to play the piano, cello and saxophone. He performed at Carnegie Hall twice as soloist on the cello and saxophone. Olusola has appeared on the United States National Public Radio (NPR) programme From the Top, an initiative to develop and showcase young classical musicians. After finishing high school at Phillips Academy, he enrolled at Yale University where he did pre-med and majored in East Asian Studies. He spent 18 months in Beijing becoming fluent in Chinese as a part of his Yale fellowship.
While in college, Kevin Olusola began developing his “celloboxing” skills, a combination of beatboxing and cello. He won second place in the “Celebrate and Collaborate with Yo-Yo Ma” international competition in 2009. Ma called Olusola’s celloboxing version of ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ both “inventive and unexpected.” In 2011, CBS, AOL, Huffington Post and Washington Post, among others featured Kevin’s Julie-O celloboxing YouTube video. He was also named one of 100 “History Makers in the Making” by NBC’s TheGrio and was hand-chosen by Quincy Jones to represent him in concert at the 2012 Montreux Jazz Festival alongside Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea.
Kevin Olusola is best known as the beat boxer of the Grammy-winning vocal quintet Pentatonix. The group was formed while they were in college, and they won first place in Sing Off , a music talent show.Their platinum selling album ‘That’s Christmas to Me’, was the number 1 holiday album in the United States and featured the title track written wholly by the group. The six videos in support of the holiday album – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, White Winter Hymnal, Winter Wonderland / Don’t Worry Be Happy featuring Tori Kelly, Mary, Did You Know?, Silent Night and their original song and title track, That’s Christmas to Me – have been viewed more than 64 million times.Their music video for Daft Punk has been viewed more than 100 million times and the medley earned the group their first Grammy win in 2014 for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or Acapella. In 2015, they won again in the same category for Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. To date, Pentatonix has released 5 albums, each landing in the top 15 of Billboard’s Top 200 Album Chart and cumulatively selling roughly 1.7 million albums. For the 2017 Grammy Awards, they were nominated in the Best Country Duo/Group Performance for Jolene, which they performed with Dolly Parton. The group was also nominated for the Kid’s Choice Awards 2017.
Pentatonix at the 2015 Grammy Awards singing with Stevie Wonder
Pentatonix at the 2014 Grammy Awards Image credits: Grammy Awards
On March 10, 2015, Kevin Olusola released his first solo album, The Renegade EP courtesy of RCA Records. The album features classically re-imagined versions of popular songs like All of Me, Stay With Me, and Heart Attack, as well as his original composition Renegade. It debuted as number 1 on Billboard Traditional Classical and Classical Crossover charts, in addition to staying number 1 on iTunes classical albums for weeks. As Olusola puts it: “I think this is the beginning of a different sound I’m trying to popularize, just like Pharrell did, just like Quincy Jones did. I’m still developing but I’m excited for the journey.”
Image credits: Kevin Olusola
March 03, 2021