Book also available.
About the artist: World-class songs and an ability to tell a poetic, emotional story have won Carl Cleves (from the Hottentots) countless awards including MusicOz and ASA Best Folk 06 and ASA Best Folk 07. From his colourful nomadic past comes a unique guitar style.
CD REVIEW – By Mike Raine
Moroccan singer Asmaa Lmnawar says that, Tarab “is a higher state that both the listener and the artist reach to”. For her “it is when a singer provokes the listener to the point where her or his body is tingling, to where the listener even starts swearing”. With this in mind I listened to the 2008 CD release from Carl Cleves: “Tarab/ Travels with my guitar”, in anticipation of the tingle, though perhaps not the swearing. Cleves’ quest for Tarab is that place “where music and poetry bestow true bliss upon the lucky one”. This is a lush CD. It is an amazingly rich tapestry of sound, an aural landscape that surges from Zimbabwe to Brazil, originating from Belgium and nestling in Byron Bay. It is instrumentally and lyrically diverse, borrowing heavily from the cultures of Africa and South America, expertly played and beautifully recorded. Cleves has distinguished himself with his compositions, having won Music Oz and Australian Songwriters Association awards and this ability is reflected in the ten tracks on the CD (eight songs and two instrumentals). Cleves’ lyrics are extremely well crafted and bursting with imagery: “From the Valley of the Moon to Corioco/Through the mighty magic jungle” (from “To Corioco”), “With the sound of the railway tracks/Only a tambourine is missing” (from “The Minas Train”), and “Xango, Exu, Yemanja/Were the mighty Orixa/ Who travelled from Nigeria/To Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica” (from Party at my house”). We have an abundance of delicious syllables, words and phrases, highly evocative and redolent with the magic and mystery of far away places. “Trem Mineiro” is sung in Portuguese and there is a dash of French in “Zimbabwe Zimbabwe” which adds their own spices to this dish. As alluded to earlier, the musicianship on this CD is first class and songs are arranged with a skill that preserves the heritage underpinning each track, giving each its own particular flavour. They are cleverly layered, dynamically and rhythmically vigorous, with intricate harmony work, all resting on the solid foundation provided by Cleves’ deft and resonant guitar work. A particular highlight for me is “Zimbabwe Zimbabwe”. Running at over eight minutes, a song length most likely to tax my powers of concentration, we travel the length and breadth of the country in sonic textures and there is musical interest in every bar. Of note is the rhythmic change at about three minutes which injects even more excitement, especially with the clever vocal interchanges and the keyboard punctuation marks. This CD is a delightful cornucopia of sound, imagery and life and forms a highly credible journal of Cleves’ travels across this planet. It is a worthy addition to anyone’s CD collection.