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The Soweto String Quartet emerged during the late 1980s around the nucleus of the three Khemese brothers — violinists Sandile and Thami, and cellist Reuben. The sons of a conductor father and a choral-singing mother, the Khemese siblings attended their uncle's township music school, with Sandile and Reuben later serving as violinists with the Soweto Symphony Orchestra. During the early half of the 1980s, Sandile continued his studies in the UK, including a four-year stint at Manchester's Royal North College of Music; after returning to South Africa he taught at the Madimba School of Music, forming the Soweto String Quartet in 1989. Completing their roster with the addition of viola player and longtime family friend Makhosini Mguni, the ensemble initially faced criticism at home for their adherence to traditional European instruments, but in the years to follow their music increasingly absorbed native African rhythms and intonations, even experimenting with guitars, keyboards and drums. Increasing national popularity resulted in a nine-month residency at the once-infamous Sun City resort, where the Soweto String Quartet was discovered by BMG Records producer Grahame Beggs; their label debut, Zebra Crossing, appeared in mid 1998, followed a year later by Renaissance.