The story opens with three young boys trundling down Soweto’s dusty roads in the turbulent 60’s. Armed with attitude, violins and cellos, targeted with jeers, sniggers and taunts from the locals, the Khemese brothers ventured bravely to music lessons. Forbidden by their parents to hang out on the hostile streets, the boys cut their teeth in African choral music and took playing that funny Euro instruments, mastering them with a natural born ease. The seed had been sown.
In 1978 the dusty road began to clear. While the elder Khemese siblings Reuben and Sandile were representing the SSQ in Aberdeen Scotland, their burgeoning talent was spotted, and in 1980 Sandile secured a place to study music at the Darlington College of Arts in England. Mike Masote, leader of the Soweto String Orchestra then, said their greatest day was when they were invited to play for Lady Aberdeen in Haddo House on a Sunday. This was one of the greatest chances which put the quartet on the map.
During their two weeks visit, the group performed and attended a classical music workshop which was conducted by Professor Alexander Pavlovich; head of the Department of music in Belgravia and Deborah Johnson a well-known classical musician.
He then went on to attend the Royal Northern College of music in Manchester for a period of four years. In 1986, armed with new music skills, culture, language and life-style; Sandile returned to a music starving South African society and the SSQ was re-born once again, to include boyhood friend Makhosini Mnguni.
The Soweto String Quartet sometimes affectionately known as SSQ is a world renowned South African Brand. The last few years have seen SSQ performed around the world as Ambassadors for the new South Africa. SSQ is not your ordinary classic music band. The music is not conventional string quartet sound but uniquely African. It is unique blend
of traditional rhythms, township jazz, mbaqanga, pop songs, jazz-fusion and strong classical influences. Their music is a good to soul fusion of the dance rhythms of kwela, the syncopated guitars of Mbaqanga, the saxophone and trumpets of swaying African jazz and the voices of people singing joyous easy harmony. SSQ is made up of three brothers Reuben, Sandile, and Thami and a bosom friend Makhosini Mnguni.
There was an inspiration for children learning violins and inspiring to be like the SSQ. This gave rise to SSQ songs played and recorded by the most youths orchestras i.e. Baskaid String Project. The SSQ has thus celebrated 25 years of creating quality music and derive sheer driving pleasure of BMW.
This Quartet became a full-time professional outfit in 1992 and has continued to perform in prominent events across the globe, one such an event was a performance at the historical Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. Many other historical performances have taken place since then. The Soweto String Quartet has touched people’s lives within the African continent and beyond.
Its relevance to the social issues brought hope during a tense transition from apartheid to liberation, therefore set itself apart, separated and far ahead of its peers. Throughout the preceding years, the sweet sound of the group has evolved with the times but maintaining the groups essence of creating sounds of African heartbeat and soul that espouses music for its soul survival.
On top of mind, when one talks about successful musical groups in Soweto, the Soweto String Quartet lands easily on the list of sustainable musical organizations. The group has defined itself as a pioneer of greatness and ultimate reference point in the genre of music it has come to be known about the world over stringing its way to the mountain top.
It is a brand that goes beyond monotonous putting together of musical instrument but theirs is an immaculate blend and discreet selection of sound that tells the great South African stories in particular and Africa in general.
An estimated 20 Million number of people have been reached through album sale since the bands inception. The reach is of loyal album collectors as well as new audience reached through dedicated projects such as the 2006 Gospel Album that saw sales of more than 50 000 and the recent Afrikaans Album that went platinum after a week of sales.
The classical nature of the music makes for longevity within the purchasers household and making for valuable gifts. The unique positioning of SSQ in terms of its music and performance, SSQ believes that corporate companies stand to benefit tremendously from SSQ performances. This benefit is based on the fact that SSQ is not mass market music, yet very popular. Individuals that attend SSQ shows and functions are individuals of awesome uniqueness. These individuals have a unique desire of achievement, responsibility and accountability. This is a class of achievers; hence the positioning of SSQ.