|Four is a significant number for the Soweto String Quartet: it is the title of their just-released fourth album, played on four-stringed instruments, with four fingers, by a band that consists of four members, says Reuben Khemese, leader of the group.|
The Quartet, formed in 1978, is made up of Reuben (on cello), his two brothers, Sandile (principal violin) and Thami (second violin), and Mahkhosini Mnguni (on viola), who joined the group in 1986.
Reuben says of the latest album: "This album has been a challenge since its point was to capture the individuality (visible in the unique stamp we've added to our look) of each of the FOUR members of the Soweto String Quartet. Our aim was to achieve this, without moving away from the group's pulse and we believe that in FOUR we have managed to capture both in the most organic way."
Reuben is a through-and-through Joburger: "I was born in Sophiatown and am proud of being a Jo'burger, I love Jo'burg."
What is it that has brought him contentment in the city? "I like the spirit and atmosphere of Johannesburg, it has a special place in my heart, and I realise this specially when I am away from home for a long time - I get homesick," he says.
And when he is home, what does he do with his family to enjoy the city? "I take them to the Market Theatre in Newtown or the Bassline in Melville where we have dinner." Reuben says holidays are not his thing, he prefers being home with his family - he has five daughters - but he has decided that he must take his family on holiday. "I must stop being selfish."
Some of the Quartet's performing highlights, says Reuben, are at the Royal Albert Hall two years ago, as a curtain raiser for Ladysmith Black Mabazo. The Harlem Dance Theatre danced to the Quartet's music at the Kennedy Centre in Washington. Back home they have performed at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, where four nights were jam-packed. The Waterfront and the Spiers Amphitheatre in Cape Town have also hosted the Quartet. "We go back to Spiers in February for two nights."
In 1995 the Quartet won three prizes in the South African Music Awards: Best New Artist, Best Instrumental Performance and Best Pop Performance. Not surprising for three sons whose parents were a virtuoso conductor father and choral singer mother. The Quartet has just finished shooting a documentary, to be shown on 9 December at 8pm on DSTV's Kyknet.
So things are going well for the Quartet these days? "Yes, pretty fine," says Reuben, smiling.
Photo cred: Jacaranda FM