Based: Johannesburg

The sound is fresh, vibrant and funky, not what you’d expect from a string quartet, but a sound that the SSQ delivers with panache and enthusiasm. Some puritans would say: “You’re not supposed to grin from ear to ear and tap your foot to the music!” Nelson Mandela allegedly plays their CD in his office all the time. His assistant is reported as saying: “The old man loves it!”

Soweto has always been alive with music. The dance rhythms of Kwela, the syncopated guitars of Mbaqanga, the saxophones and trumpets of swaying African jazz and the voices of people singing in joyous, easy harmony.

The Soweto String Quartet emerged during the 80’s around the nucleus of the three Khamese brothers, violinists Sandile and Thami and cellist, Reuben. The Khamese brothers attend their uncle’s music school with Sandile and Reuben later serving as violinists in the Soweto Symphony Orchestra. The Soweto String Quartet was formed in 1989 at the Madimba School of Music.

The four members of the Soweto String Quartet are a political statement in themselves. They are four black classical musicians from a South African Township. The ensemble initially faced criticism at home for their adherence to traditional European instruments, but through the years their music has absorbed native African rhythms and intonations.

Their talents went unrecognized for long as the apartheid era had seen all things South African boycotted. The foursome went on to take South Africa by storm; their engagement diary was soon bulging and was even resident musicians at Sun City for nine months, as the tourists loved them! That’s where Grahame Beggs from BMG records noticed them and had them signed.