The Soweto String Quartet

Music began emerging of a different kind during the 80’s in South Africa, an eclectic sound that was fresh and exciting absorbing the native African rhythms and movements from the townships with that of the traditional eighteenth century European instruments. Traditionally a ‘string quartet’ is made up of a group of four musicians as well as four string instruments – this ‘normally’ includes two violins, a cello and a viola.

It was in late 1989 that the final fantasy would become a striking reality with the establishment of the Soweto String Quartet at the ‘Madimba School of music’. Much was said through controversy by the public and press as the four members of this talented Soweto String Quartet came into being during a period which was still under the reign of the apartheid era. It was in 1990 that the beginning of the end for the apartheid came when President FW de Klerk announced the release of Nelson Mandela. Slowly the apartheid system began to be dismantled; but not before making a political statement in itself. It did not come without its initial cost through the adverse feelings felt by the local people who found it hard to accept what seemed a rejection of their culture. Nevertheless the formidable four stood up and took South Africa by storm which resulted in Grahame Beggs from BMG records taking notice to the point of signing them on as part of the team. Thus in 1992 they finally took to stage as professionals where they were privileged to perform at the inauguration of President Mandela, since then they’ve soared for nothing less but the sky.

The greatest fan of the Soweto String Quartet has to be the kind and gentle Nelson Mandela and with such overwhelming support from the local public there was no turning back, fifteen years later they’re still going strong! This mind blowing Soweto String Quartet is made up of three Khamese brothers namely: Reuben, Sandile and Thami as well as their ever talented friend Makhosini Mnguni. Much of this began at their uncle’s school of music where the rough talents of the boys were refined and finally seeing Sandile and Reuben Khamese joining the Soweto Symphony Orchestra.

Soweto has always been renowned for its unrestrained collection of dance rhythms which include the urban style pop music known as Kwela, the modified rhythm of the Mbaqanga guitars and the soulful tunes of African Jazz beating through the saxophones and trumpets collaborating with the harmonious singing of the local township folk.