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Carl Cleves


Carl Cleves

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Carl Cleves

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Carl Cleves Before twilight turns to night

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About Carl Cleves
Carl Cleves was born in Mechelen, a traditional Flemish town in Belgium. He graduated in his Belgian Law Studies and was offered a scholarship to study traditional African music with ethnomusicologist John Blacking in South 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, foreign correspondent and ethnomusicologist in Africa and night club crooner in the South Pacific. While living in Brazil he became a popular singer and bandleader. He lives with his wife on the east coast of Australia.

Besides a Phd in Law from Leuven University in Belgium and his Musicology degree in African studies from Witwatersrand University in South Africa, Cleves hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Contemporary Composition (SCU), was a research fellow at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, lectured in World Music at Southern Cross University and in Composition at the Northern Rivers Conservatorium. He speaks five languages.

He is the author of Soundtracks of my Life, Dancing with the Bones and Tarab: Travels with My Guitar, an epic tale of high adventure and the search for musical ecstasy (TransitLounge.com.au), now in its second print edition. His six solo albums and six with The Hottentots, co-founded with his wife Parissa Bouas, have won international praise and numerous awards, including Music OZ, NCEIA and Australian Songwriters Association Award for Best Australian lyricist. ‘Songs both intimate and powerful’; ‘a vision whimsical and wise’; a guitar style ‘utterly captivating, pregnant with unexpected nuance’. He has toured internationally, records for the German Stockfish label and has appeared at all major Australian Folk festivals, including Woodford, Port Fairy and the National FF.


Carl Cleves -the Tarab trilogy
Tarab is an Arabic concept, a state of mind where music and poetry bestow true bliss upon the lucky one. Carl Cleves’ trilogy narrates the story of an artist’s worldwide quest for Tarab. It is a memoir in 3 volumes.

Volume 1, Tarab. Travels with my guitar (Transit Lounge Publishing 2008-14), now in its second edition, tells of the nomadic life.
Volume 2, Dancing with the Bones (2021), focuses on the search for roots, belonging and love,
while Soundtracks of my Life (2023) details the music behind it all. Volume 2 and 3 have been published independently through IngramSpark

About Soundtracks of my life 
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.

Tarab. Travels with my Guitar - ‘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 and a man prepared to undertake interesting, but never crazy, experiences. Cleves is a rarity. He is a true traveller in an age of holidaymakers and gawpers. He heads out to experience the world and reminds his readers that true travel is about sinking deeply into cultures and allowing unique experiences to change your life. The result is a journey that enriches Cleves and the reader.’ 
Bruce Elder – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Dancing with the Bones is a memoir of the very best sort, a record of a life well lived, consciously, with wry intelligence and insight. It is also a love story, bridging family, the camaraderie of musicians, an unquenchable thirst for adventure and his inevitable meeting with the beautiful Parissa Bouas, musical collaborator and wife. Itis funny, it’s moving, it’s breathtaking, it’s tender. I dare you not to love it.’
Jeni Caffin - ex-director Byron Writers Festival. Byron Bay Echo

Soundtracks of My Life - ‘What an overflowing cornucopia of stories and unheard-of musical styles you have produced. Absolutely awe-inspiring - your musical knowledge, adventures, friendships, and writing ability. Like the previous two books, Soundtracks deserves heaps of attention and appreciation, so may the Goddesses let it be so. I am gob-smacked… and actually so envious.’
Param Berg - reader

Carl Cleves
31 Belongil Crescent, Byron Bay NSW 2481