The cello(pronounced chel-loh). Developed way back in the Byzantine Era in the 9th century, the modern version we see of this instrument today were crafted by Italian luthiers over 700 years later. Smaller in size only to the double bass in the violin family, the violoncello as it is sometimes called stands over a meter tall upright, with smaller versions for children & pre-teens. This 4-stringed instrument is usually synonymous with classical music as well as names like Dmitri Shostakovich & Michael Bach. Cellists all over the world regard the cello as an instrument of almost lady-like beauty, in regards to both the instrument itself & the deep, rich melodies that resonate from its woodwork.
Apparently some cellists, probably not content with the classics, began to notice that if they adjust their playing style with a little bit more riffs, they could actually imitate some cool rock music. Or maybe even surpass it. And so they did. Closer to the 21st century trill-seeking cellists spent sleepless nights experimenting with lower octaves & higher tempos. And then in December 1971, British rock band Electric Light Orchestra(ELO) gave the world its first taste of what it called “Baroque-and-roll” with their debut self-titled album. It was met with criticism from all directions, including their drummer Bev Bevan, but eventually the pioneers have set the stage. Almost three full decades later over a dozen “Cello Rock” bands have made their own international debuts, each incorporating their own unique styles of playing in their music. And a whole new genre was born.
Apocalyptica (since 1993)
With over 4 million albums sold worldwide & many concert tours/festivals to date, Apocalyptica is arguably the most popular flag bearer of this new breed of music. Originally comprised of a quartet of 4 cellists(graduates of Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland), the band started with cello covers of Metallica in the mid-1990s. Over the next two decades, the Finnish band collaborated with vocalists from favourite rock bands Hoobastank, Slipknot & Flyleaf to form new singles. With percussionist Mikko Sirén in the mix, you’d think that you were listening to rock music with authentic guitars. It’s not every day you get to see cellists head banging while playing the cello.
Rasputina (since 1992)
The trio are an eccentric, but highly talented Americans famous for incorporating various concepts from the Victorian Era, especially their dress code, which they called “historical costumery”. With 8 albums released all over, their music will give a wide depth of the new genre.
Tina Guo (debut album 2011)
The pretty Chinese lady on the cello would probably make you expect her playing to be as serene, calm & elegant. But alas, she is no ordinary cellist. Branded as a contemporary “Metal Cellist”, her personal style of music fluctuates from the baroque Autumn Winds to her metallic masterpiece, her single, Forbidden City. To compose hardcore, pure metal with an instrument like an electric cello, one would realize that this is probably what’s gonna happen even if the rock star runs out of guitars: We’ll just use the cellos then, since the amplifiers are still working.
Break Of Reality (since 2003)
This uprising American instrumental group, famous for their self-composed cello thunder, probably would strike you as a rock band. Well, you’re absolutely right. Except this time we replace guitars with cellos altogether, but keep the guy on the drums. The soothing start of each masterpiece will usually give way to a highly energetic, and yet brilliant chorus. Warning: People have reported eargasms on listening to their music.
Steven Sharp Nelson (The Piano Guys, since 2011)
One half of the instrumental piano/cello duo The Piano Guys, Steven Sharp Nelson has become something of an international YouTube sensation lately. His solo Moonlight, a Beethoven “remix” on the electric cello has had over 6 million views to date, since it was uploaded on July 2011 on their channel. The band’s movie spoofs, which are brilliant masterpieces at the same time, include “Bourne Vivaldi” & “Cello Wars”. Known for his highly creative ways of making music just with his cello, like making crab scratches with his strings using a rosin brush(watch “Michael meets Mozart”) & tapping the fingerboard with both his hands & his bow to make drumbeats.