Carl Cleves, singer, songwriter and guitarist was born in Mechelen, a traditional Flemish town in Belgium. Even as a child he would entertain his siblings and schoolmates with his vivid imagination. At 15 he was fronting his own band The Dragons and writing songs. His first recordings were made in Dusseldorf during one of his many escapes from student life, hitchhiking around Europe. In the mid 1960s he worked the folk clubs in London in the good company of Paul Simon, Al Stewart, Bert Jansch, Jackson C. Frank, Davey Graham and others, but instead of following a career path to musical fame like his contemporaries, Carl went travelling.
He graduated in his Belgian Law Studies and was offered a scholarship to study traditional African music with ethnomusicologist John Blacking in southern Africa. This started off many years of travel throughout Africa, the Middle East, the Orient, the Pacific Region and South America, guitar in hand, acquiring musical skills and an endless supply of stories and songs. His adventurous life has included stints as an antelope trapper in Uganda, relief worker in cyclone struck India, radio broadcaster and ethnomusicologist in Africa and fisherman in the South Pacific. Whilst living in Brazil, where he worked for the Federal University of Minas Gerais in research of folkloric music, he became a popular singer and bandleader and released the first two albums of his songs.
Carl's nomadic past results in highly original songs, which have won numerous awards in the categories of folk, world & roots - most recently, two of the most coveted national Australian Music Awards (Music Oz and the Australian Songwriters Association). Ranging from polyrhythmic exuberance to intimate subtlety, the personal to the political, styles are interchanged and blended with great ease. Traces of Brazil, Africa, folk, blues and dance are the spice in the stew of Carl's songs. Approach and sound vary widely with each release but always with 'a complete lack of pretence and trendiness' (R. Jasituowicz, Diaspora World Beat). His pallet is as broad as life itself.
In 1991 Carl founded The Hottentots & the dance band, Hottentot Party, together with, Parissa Bouas, a Greek-Australian singer-songwriter who became his wife, fusing folk with world influences. Since then they have produced 5 CDs and taken their music around Australia, Europe and Brazil. In 2006 they travelled to Madagascar for a joint concert with the diva of Malagasy music Hanitra Rasoanaivo, of the band Tarika and traveled 3000 km through the island researching and filming music and rituals. Carl speaks five languages and holds degrees in Law, African Music and Contemporary Composition. Presently, he writes, records, runs workshops, tours with Parissa Bouas and guest-lectures in Song Writing and World Music at Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia. He lives in Byron Bay on the east coast of Australia.
Carl won the Award for BEST LYRICS 2007 (Australian Songwriters Association) for his song 'The Rose of Kordofan' from 'All alone'.
In 2008 Carl saw his book of road stories 'Tarab - Travels with my guitar' published by Transit Lounge. Two companion discs of songs linked to the book and recorded in Brazil and Australia were simultaneously released - ‘All Alone’ and ‘Tarab – Travels with my guitar’.
In 2010 Carl released a new CD together with Parissa Bouas titled ‘Out of Australia’, recorded in surround sound by the German label Stockfisch records and produced by Gunter Pauler. The CD was launched during a 16 month world tour starting in October, receiving broad international acclaim. The Hottentots moniker was dropped and Carl and Parissa now work under their individual names.
2011 saw Carl Cleves touring extensively with Parissa Bouas in Latin America, Europe and Australia as well as recording in Germany, Holland and Australia.
2012 Carl’s new solo CD, titled THE HOUSE IS EMPTY is released. It was recorded in Australia and Holland and mastered in Amsterdam and has been nominated in 5 categories at the 2012 MUSICOZ Awards.
2014 Carl’s book of road stories ‘Tarab, travels with my guitar’ was published in 2014 in a new and extended edition by Transit Lounge, featuring several extra chapters and a new look. A print version as well as a kindle book are now available worldwide.
‘Halos round the Moon’ recorded with Parissa Bouas for the German Stockfish label was released . Parissa and Carl made brief tours to Germany, Belgium and Australia during 2014-5.
2016 began with the digital publication on iBooks of ‘Book of Songs’, a musical memoir, featuring over a hundred photos and drawings, while hyperlinks refer to audio files of songs and live video clips
2017 time out, growing spinach and snow peas and writing songs.
2018 new album released ‘Before Twilight turns to Night’
2021 release of new book ‘Dancing with the Bones’
School days, Mechelen, Belgium 1951