BOOKS of Carl Cleves          
  Soundtracks of my life  

Soundtracks of my life
Release date: IngramSpark 1st March 2023

Soundtracks of my life is a blended memoir with a sweeping musical world history, enriched with cultural and historical detail, and observations of the human condition.

Carl Cleves takes readers on an intimate global journey in his search for the elusive feeling of tarab, the Arabic notion of musical and poetic ecstasy.

A parade of musicians accompanies us, famous and obscure, from the first thrill of French chansonniers in his Belgian childhood, through the skiffle, blues and rock music of his youth, the folk and roots renaissance of the sixties, and the music he discovered as a student in Africa, relief worker in India, popular band leader in Brazil, musicologist in Madagascar, and hippy farmer and lecturer in Australia.  

You start dying slowly if you do not travel
If you do not read
If you do not listen to the sounds of life
You start dying slowly if you avoid to feel passion
And their turbulent emotions
Those which make your eyes glisten
And your heart beat fast (Pablo Neruda)

  Dancing with  the bones  

Dancing with the bones
Release date: October 2021

An enthralling exploration of roots, ancestry and the search for belonging, this memoir in triptych form is an original weave of memories, dream sequences, travel and touring diaries, interspersed with the author’s wry observations whilst looking in the rear view mirror from the bucolic pastures of his home on the Pacific rim of Australia.

‘Triptychs paintings and stained glass windows have hung for centuries in all the catholic churches of my youth in Belgium. The stories they told appealed to me, and I have adopted the format in this book.’

Three panels, three stages of a life in a search for roots and belonging, mixing memories, dream sequences, photos, travel and touring diaries.

Panel 1 chronicles Carl’s early life in Flanders, the conflict with his father and his departure, leading to years of travel. Panel 2 narrates his attempts at growing roots as a hippy pioneer farmer on the east coast of Australia and as a music star in Brazil, while panel 3 tells of the discovery of love and the mending of old wounds in Greece, Spain and Belgium, culminating in a cathartic ancestral reburial ceremony on the island of Madagascar.

‘Dancing with the Bones’ is, in turn, philosophical, funny, adventurous, lyrical and insightful.


Tarab - Travels with my guitar



Tarab - Travels with my guitar
Release date: February 2014

‘By any measure, Cleves deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Thesiger, Burton and Newby. He is an astute observer, a passionate participant … ’ Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald

‘An extraordinary tour of wild times and wilder places. I have laughed, gasped and loved very startling page. ’ Jeni Caffin

Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Carl Cleves, would, even as a child, entertain his siblings and schoolmates with his vivid imagination and captivating stories. After many requests from his friends and fans, Carl decided to write a book.

TARAB narrates the adventures and quests, wanderings and narrow escapes, mishaps and illuminations of guitar-toting troubadour and songwriter Carl Cleves in his many roles as young beat poet, law student, single father, journalist and ethnomusicologist, inmate of hospitals, relief worker in cyclone-struck India, antelope trapper in Uganda, encyclopedia salesman in Bangkok, ‘back to the land pioneer’ in Australia, band leader and recording star in Brazil.

This memoir runs over three decades and includes quests with his "she was not a screamer" partner Beatrice, during the revolutionary independence years of the late sixties in Africa and on the hippy/ spiritual trail in India in the seventies; escapades with his young son Tashi during the eighties in South America and North Africa; tales of calamities and survival set in the interior of Brazil, the Himalayas and on the east coast of Australia.

From the Sudan to Northern New South Wales, Tarab is an epic, mesmerising tale of high adventure and the search for meaning. Cleves’s page turning memoir is no simple music biography, but rather the travel story of an artist’s quest for tarab: a place where music and poetry bestow true bliss upon the lucky one. It’s by turns philosophical, funny, adventurous and insightful.

Fully revised and expanded, this new edition of Tarab is a must read for all lovers of travel literature. It includes Cleves’ time in Sydney working at the late Petersons’ Music Shop in George Street and his early years living in Northern New South Wales at the height of the back to the land movement.

Transit Lounge Publishing
95 Stephen St, Yarraville, Australia 3013
tel: 03 9332 7847 Fax: 03 9689 8100


Click on the 'To Coroico' title to read one of Carl's stories:


"From the Valley of the Moon to Coroico
Through the mighty magic jungle
The Altiplano in the snow
The crack of dawn the truck will go."
(from "To Coroico", words and music by Carl Cleves)

As a child of devout Catholics I prayed at the open window of my bedroom that Peter Pan would come and whisk me away to a magical jungle in a snow-peaked mountain range. The Belgian comic strip hero Tintin, or Kuifje as he was called in my native Flemish, was my saint. Intrepid, courageous, optimistic, pure of heart, loyal, caring of his dog Milou, Tintin travelled the world.

In many places I saw his footprints: in the streets of Kathmandu, in Balkan villages, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the bazaars of Arabia. "The Temple of the Sun" was my favourite book. Set in the heart of South America, it told the story of an unswerving quest to rescue a friend, an amazing journey across snow-capped mountain peaks and raging streams, beneath towering rainforests, amongst the remnants of the Inca Empire and the downtrodden Indians who populate present-day Peru and Bolivia.

My prayer was about to be answered.

Download the companion disc or individual songs

Tarab - Travels with my guitar

Recorded in Brazil, Australia etc

please contact Carl Cleves Music


• Texan lion
• Trem mineiro
• To Coroico
• Mustapha
• Party at my house
• Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
• Penkele
• A long way
• Welcome home
• Tashi’s songmaterial




Carl Cleves, Yugoslavia