Carel Kraayenhof (musician and composer)

Born in Waalre (NL) in 1958, Carel was eight years old when he first laid his eyes on a piano music book. Carel discovered music to be his greatest passion and has always been a very important way for him to communicate.

In the mid 70’s Carel was highly influenced by his brother Jaap with Irish, Scottish and English folk music, and learned to play melodeon and the English concertina. In the early 80’s Carel had contact with a bandoneón for the first time. Those sounds stroke him like a lightning. At that moment he knew, without a doubt, that he wanted to be a bandoneonist.

From then on his career moved at a fast pace. In 1987 he was asked by Astor Piazzolla to come play for him in New York (Tango Apasionado, a Broadway tango musical). In 1988 he was invited, together with his Sexteto Canyengue, by Osvaldo Pugliese to come to Argentina. In 1993 he started the Argentine Tango course at the Rotterdam’s Conservatorium Codarts and received the ‘Golden Nutcracker’ from the Dutch Performing Arts Association. In 1996 the Sexteto Canyengue made an appearance at the Montreal Jazz Festival. In 1997 and 1998 they were headliners of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

On February 2nd 2002 his career took a leap forward. Carel played ‘Adiós Nonino’ at the Dutch royal wedding of HRH Prince Willem-Alexander and, originally Argentinean, Máxima Zorreguieta (now HRH King and Queen of The Netherlands). More than 55 million people around the world watched the ceremony. The wedding’s sound track went triple platinum. Several awards followed in the years after, including in 2003 the Edison People’s Choice Award Classic and in 2005 an official decoration from the Argentine government for his efforts as an ambassador for the tango music. In 2012 Carel is named Officer of Oranje Nassau by Queen Beatrix (NL).

Carel’s concerts have been popular since then. Numerous tours (national and international*), albums, projects and collaborations with Dutch and international artists** have been taking place. Carel celebrated 30 years of his career with his ensemble’s last theater tour named ‘30!’. And in 2018 he received an Edison Oeuvre Award Jazz/World Music for all his efforts in the Dutch music culture.

Having composed over 80 pieces, Carel is also an established name for new tango and South American music. From solo pieces for bandoneón or dual with piano and sextet to full orchestra scores, all is possible in his creative mind.

Carel has played solo, with classical orchestras (for example London Symphony Orchestra) and in several long lasting collaborations with his own Sexteto Canyengue and Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble and in a duo formation with Argentinean pianist Juan Pablo Dobal. This shows his flexibility as an artist and highlights his adaptability with different music genres. Tango is his passion but making music is his way of life.

* USA, Canada, Ireland, Russia, Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Indonesia, Scotland, Portugal, Finland, Japan, South Korea, etc. 

** Sting, Ennio Morricone, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Kristjan Jarvi, Janine Jansen, Lavinia Meijer, Youp van ’t Hek, Herman van Veen, André Hazes, Bløf, Jurk, 3J’s, Caro Emerald, Paul de Leeuw, JURK!, among others. Carel also shared the podium with Trijntje Oosterhuis, Dana Winner, René Froger, Marco Borsato, among others.

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[accordion_item title=” Carel insider’s view”]

What is perfect happiness? To watch an emotional film with Thirza, while our cats, Blokje, Beer and Witneus are lying around us
What is your biggest fear? To step onto the stage badly prepared – to loose my bandoneón
With which historical figure do you identify yourself most? Nelson Mandela, Michael Collins
Which trail of your character do you think the most annoying? Uncertainty
Which trail of other people’s character do you think most annoying? Arrogance, dishonesty
Which temptation you can’t resist? Italian ice cream, Guinness, mate
Which is your favorite vacation? Ireland, Argentina
With which part of your appearance are you least satisfied? My nose
Which living person do you despise? Assad
What do you regret most of all? That I didn’t get my hands on a bandoneón when I was eight years old
Where and when were you happiest? Me and Thirza with Osvaldo and Lydia Pugliese in Buenos Aires
How is your present state of mind? Calm
You may change one thing about yourself. What would that be? That I could act
What is your biggest achievement? As a Dutchman to re-invent the wheel of tango and play the bando
What is your most precious property? My family (They are not really mine, but I am allowed lo live with them)
What is the lowest point of misery? Conflicts, arguments, being abandoned, loneliness
Where would you like to live? At a lake with a sailing boat
What is really you? Never give up (no te rindas)
Which quality do you appreciate most in a man? Confidence, mildness and humor
Which quality do you appreciate most in a woman? Enthusiasm, humor and involvement
Which are your favorite writers? At the moment Petra Possel and Leoni Jansen
Which are your favorite composers? Dimitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Piazzolla, Pugliese, Randy Newman
Who are your heroes? Mandela, Collins, Tula, Pugliese, members of the resistance all over the world
What is your motto? Be kind for each other, the more the merrier



Carel Kraayenhof

CarelCarel Kraayenhof (1958)
Carel, bandoneón player, composer and arranger, is the most fascinating and all-round bandoneonist at the moment. Unparalleled on his music and way of playing by his knowledge of the Argentine tango, he brings out of the emotions in every audience around the world with his enchanting and honorable interpretations.
Through the cooperation with Astor Piazzolla (†1992) in 1987, during the Broadway musical show ‘Tango Apasionado’, and his direct connection with the beloved tango maestro Osvaldo Pugliese (†1995), Carel has become one of the most sought-after bandoneón player of the moment.
One of the highlights of his career was on 02/02/2002 when he, passionately, played the sensitive ‘Adiós Nonino’ van Astor Piazzolla during the wedding of H.R.H. Price Willem-Alexander and H.R.H. Princess Máxima (nowadays the King and Queen of The Netherlands).
Next to his work on the past 25 years with the Sexteto Canyengue, his duo (since 2011) with pianist Juan Pablo Dobal and his Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble (since September 2011), Carel has worked with great names of the classical music, such as Ennio Morricone, Yo-Yo-Ma, the violists Janine Jansen en Joshua Bell and the cellist Quirine Viersen. Carel is also internationally well known, having played with several important orchestras; The London Symphony Orchestra, the Berliner Symphoniker, the Orchestre National de Lyon, Tonkünstler Orchestra (Vienna), Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra together with STING, among others. Carel does not limit his music to one style. That has been proven by his cooperation with the singers Dulce Pontes and Sting. In The Netherlands he has recorded songs with André Hazes (Bloed, zweet en tranen), Blᴓf (Barcelona, Bougainville, Geen Tango), Trijntje Oosterhuis (Nu dat jij er bent), Dana Winner (Afscheid van een Vriend), Caro Emerald (TangledUp), JURK (Hakken), 3J’s (Dromen en Dwazen), Guus Meeuwis and he has shared the stage with Marco Borsato.
Carel has received many awards, such as in 2003 the Edison Publieksprijs for his album ‘Tango Royal’, in 2005 he received a decoration from the Argentine government for his efforts on sharing the tango worldwide. On the 9th of July 2012 Carel received the order of First Officer in Orange Nassau from the, then, Dutch Queen Beatrix.

Complete biography

Carel Kraayenhof

Carel was eight years old when he first laid his eyes on a piano music book. Only eight years old but already dreaming of the day when he could touch and inspire people by his own music. Just like the way he felt every time music managed to bring out deep emotions in him. For Carel music has always been a very important way of communication, even in that young age. From then to now, this communication channel has only become more and more important. In order to encourage Carel, his parents bought him an, five hundred Guilders, old piano where he eagerly practiced. He taught himself everything from his first music book, after that he followed lessons. Carel admits that he was no natural talent but he was extremely passionate and motivated, and by playing over and over he gained the necessary skills to reach where he is today. The most important ingredient was clearly present: Carel discovered music to be his greatest passion.

In the mid 70’s Carel was highly influenced by his dear brother Jaap with Irish, Scottish and English folk music and learned to play diatonic button accordion (melodeon) and the English concertina. This was the period when they started to play together in parties, festivals, on the streets and in theaters. In the early 80’s Carel had for the first time contact with a bandoneón. He discovered an LP full of solo pieces for this passionate instrument. Those sounds stroke him like a lightning. He was impressed by the amount of different timbres that came out of that LP, knowing that it all originated from one single instrument. On that moment Carel knew, without a doubt, that he wanted to be a bandoneonist. He spent uncountable hours listening to Argentinean tango, writing their notes on paper, played them on the bandoneón and rehearsed days in and days out in order to learn, understand and master all buttons, tones and possibilities that his beloved instrument had offer.

Carel embraced the Argentine tango and that didn’t go unnoticed by the great composers. The grand maestro Astor Piazzolla, personally, invited Carel Kraayenhof to come play for him in the Broadway tango musical ‘Tango Apasionado’ (1987). Even though Carel was playing with his first tango ensemble ‘Tango Cuatro’ (1985) in that period, it was an incredible opportunity for him to play with this grand maestro, his role model. He took the chance and flew to New York. In 1988 Carel started up his tango sextet ‘Sexteto Canyengue’. With his sextet he was invited by another grand tango maestro, Osvaldo Pugliese, to come to Argentina and play in Buenos Aires, together with Pugliese’s own orchestra. Countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, USA, Malaysia, Turkey and many Western European countries were then introduced to Carel Kraayenhof y su Sexteto Canyengue’s contagious music. In the following years Carel developed himself and became arranger and composer for tango music. In the beginning of the 90’s Carel was invited by the Rotterdam’s Conservatorium to start up a bandoneón-learning program; this resulted, in 1993, on the creation of the course Argentine Tango where Carel was, for almost 10 years, teacher for the main stream bandoneón and piano. There he also guided new ensembles and the OTRA Student Orchestra. To date, the Rotterdam’s Conservatorium is the only place in the world where tango music is taught in a conservatorium level.
Although back then Carel’s name was gaining space around the world, the Dutch audience hadn’t really discovered him yet.

On February 2nd 2002 that changed dramatically. During the wedding of His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander and Her Royal Highness Princess Máxima (nowadays King and Queen of The Netherlands), Carel had the honor to play together with the Concertgebouw Kamerorkest the heart touching and emotional ‘Adiós Nonino’, by Astor Piazzolla, at the Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk.
This heartwarming song didn’t only bring out emotions to the newlywed couple, to more than one thousand of their guests (including Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan) and more that 55 million people watching worldwide; it also lead to Maxima’s famous tear. In addition to touching the heart of our, then, future Queen, that moment also touched the hearts of the Dutch people, who embraced the Argentine tango from that moment on. The soundtrack of Willem-Alexander and Maxima’s wedding went 3x platinum and the single ‘Adiós Nonino’ was now being played in Dutch homes. Carel Kraayenhof’s CD ‘Tango Royal’ also went double platinum and ‘Tango Maxima’ (produced and distributed under Carel’s own label) sold a healthy “gold”.

Sexteto Canyengue’s concerts were more popular than ever. The Dutch were infatuated by the Argentine tango, with its provocative compositions, emotional melodies and daring tempo changes. The compensation for all the hard work was not only given by the recognition of the audiences for whom Carel played for, but the connoisseurs were also openly enthusiastic about Carel Kraayenhof u su Sexteto Canyengue’s high quality.
That was one of the reasons why Carel received in 1993 the ‘Golden Nutcracker’ from the Dutch Performing Arts Association as a token of their appreciation for his special musical crafts and his efforts to carry through as many live concerts as possible. In 2002 Carel received a prize from the Dutch Association of Dance Teachers for the incentive he gave to the population to learn and dance tango. In that same year he was honored at the Henk Geels Events’ yearly Popularity Award, with the prize for the breakthrough artist of the year. In addition to that, in 2003 Carel received the Edison people’s choice award for his CD ‘Tango Royal’. Carel could not be more proud when, in 2005, the Argentine government awarded him with a high cultural decoration for his, worldwide, efforts as an ambassador for the tango music!

Great names in music are a common theme in Carel’s carrier. His first lesson was given by Alfredo Marcucci; a greatly talented Argentinean bandoneón player who lived in Belgium. As mentioned before, in 1987 Astor Piazzolla, Tango Nuevo’s father, invited him to work with him in the musical Tango Apasionado and in 1990 he was invited to tour together with the legendary Osvaldo Pugliese. In the mean time Carel himself became worldwide known tango master. In 1997 Carel and his sextet made a TV appearance in The Netherlands together with Yo-Yo Ma and in 2002 he played during a sold out homage to Piazzolla at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires surrounded, and embraced, by the famous Sexteto Mayor. In 2006 Carel met Ennio Morricone, (this album went gold) and together in Rome they created the magical sounds of the, very successful, CD ‘Guardian of the Clouds’. In The Netherlands, Carel participated in the recording of different albums, for artists such as Youp van ’t Hek, Herman van Veen, André Hazes, Bløf, Jurk, 3J’s, Caro Emerald and Paul de Leeuw, among others. He also shared the podium with Trijntje Oosterhuis, Dana Winner and René Froger. Carel traveled with Bløf on their journey to Buenos Aires and joined their concerts in Ahoy and Nieuwe Luxor. In the summer of 2004 Carel joined Marco Borsato in his, sold out, concert series at the Kuip stadium. In just one week, he played for more than 320.000 people.

*Since 2005 Carel plays, next to all regular concerts with his own Sexteto Canyengue, around the world as a soloist with with the Symfonie Orkesten, conducted by Kristjan Jarvi.
*In 2005 Carel received a decoration from the Argentinian government for more than 20 years of efforts in spreading the Argentinian tango around the world.
*In 2008 Carel received an official invitation from the Chinese government and the Red Cross to give two large concerts (in Xian and Beijing) in order to raise funds for the victims of the massive earthquake which affected that region. In Beijing the concert was held at the, sold out, ‘Great Hall of the People’.
*Carel’s efforts supported the tango’s addition to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
*In May 2009 Carel was invited by the famous violin player Joshua Bell to record two compositions (Oblivion and Il Postino) with him for his CD ‘Joshua Bell and Friends’ (EMI).
*In August 2009 Carel and his Sexteto Canyengue play together with the famous Absolute Ensemble, conducted by Kristjan Jarvi, at the ‘Musik Fest Bremen’ festival where the program ‘Absolute Tango’ premieres.
*In October 2009 the CD ‘Compassion’ is released under own label and is followed by a theater tour.

January 2010
*Carel plays together with Joshua Bell on the famous American TV channel PBS with ‘Joshua Bell live @ Lincoln Center’ in New York.
*Soloist concerts with the Orchestre National du Lyon, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, among others.
*Solo concert in Marseille.
*No one other than STING invites Carel to be a featuring guest during his concerts at the GelreDome in Arnhem, The Netherlands.

*Carel leads 10 shows of The National Ballet’s orchestra (The Netherlands) for the show n ‘5 Tango’s’, choreographed by Hand van Manen.
*The Kraayenhof Tango Ensemble (nowadays Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble) is created as well as the combination DUO Kraayenhof/Dobal (together with the Argentinian pianist Juan Pablo Dobal).
*Carel receives an honorary prize from the ‘Nederland Positief’ foundation for all his work of more than 20 years.
*This was a year full of national and international concerts. Including France (Toulouse) and Germany (Hamburg).

*Another year with many concerts, the DUO set played in Italy (Cavatore), the Sexteto Canyengue played in Turkey (Bodrum) and France (Tarbes) and the Kraayenhof Tango Ensemble had several concerts in The Netherlands.
*The CDs ‘PURO’ and ¡Fuerza! were released and presented by the Kraayenhof Tango Ensemble and the DUO combination in a sold out Concertgebouw.
*At the end of the CDs presentation Carel was awarded a badge by the mayor of Beemster, in the name of Queen Beatrix. He is named Officer of Oranje Nassau.
*In early September Carel is invited by Sting and travels to Witslaw to record together. Between October and December he works on recording several numbers with Dutch artists; Caro Emerald (Tangled Up), 3JS’s, LA de Voices (Gordon), JURK! (Jeroen van Koningsbruggen & Dennis van de Ven), Frans Duijts.
*At the end of September the Kraayenhof Tango Ensemble gives four concerts in Java, Indonesia. In November and December Carel plays 7 concerts in The Netherland and 3 concerts in Siberia as a soloist with the Sinfonia Rotterdam.

*Next to the regular concerts in The Netherlands, The Kraayenhof Tango Ensemble gives shows in Seoul and Las Palmas.
*The Sexteto Canyengue blows everyone away during the International Tango Festival in Edinburgh.
*On the 30th of April Carel’s composition ‘Suite Compassion’ premieres at the Residentie Orkest in The Hague.
*The DUO combination, Carel Kraayenhof & Juan Pablo Dobal introduces, next to their regular concerts, tango lectures for private guests and companies.

*In February Carel played in Germany with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra
*In May the duo with Juan Pablo Dobal travels to Doha for the first King’s Day event and later on the same month the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble tours Indonesia
*In July Carel is a soloist during the Espinho Classical Orchestra’s concert at the Festival Internacional de Música de Espinho, Portugal
*On the second half of the year Carel starts a very special, long lasting, collaboration with harpist Lavinia Meijer.

*In January the theater show Liberación premieres, and tours Dutch theaters.
*In February Carel and Juan Pablo perform in Finland together with the Joensuu Orchestra
*On May 5th (Official Liberation day of The Netherlands, WWII) the theater show Liberación has a special performance during the official celebration in Amsterdam where a special composition by Carel is presented. Named Madiba.

Bandoneón soloist
Carel Kraayenhof has worked as a bandoneón soloist around the world with several orchestras. Such as:
– Brabants Orkest
– Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest
– Metropole Orkest
– Philips Symfonie Orkest
– Residentieorkest
– Concertgebouw Kamer Orkest
– Gelders orkest
– Residentie Orkest
– Amsterdam Sinfonietta
– Orkest van het Oosten
– Limburgs Symfonie Orkest
– London Symfonie in London and Daytona Beach (USA)
– Cincinnati Symfonie
– Hong Kong Philharmonic
– Sinfonia Rotterdam
– other orchestras in Germany, Estonia, Russia, Austria, Australia (Perth, Adelaide and Sydney) and China (Xian and Beijing)

Carel Kraayenhof has worked with the following documentaries:

– ‘In de greep van de Tango’, directed by Leendert Pot (1990)
– ‘Bandoneón’, directed by Rolf Lambert (1998)
– ‘Nostalgia? A Tango Road Movie’, directed by Wouter Hasebos (2002)

‘Tangueros de Holanda’ (1997) Own label (more details via the website)
‘Cinco tangos’ (1998) Own label (more details via the website)
‘Tango Maxima’ (2000) Own label (more details via the website)
‘Tango Royal’ (2002) Universal
‘Street Tango’ (2003) Universal
‘Guardians of the Clouds’(2006) Universal
‘Tango heroes’CD/DVD (2006) Universal
‘Memorias de Cuba’(2008) Universal
‘Compassion’ (2009) Own label (more details via the website)
‘Puro’ (2012) Own label (more details via the website)
‘¡Fuerza!’ (2012) Own label (more details via the website)
‘Liberación’ (2014) Own label (more details via the website)

Statement lines:
– As a child Carel discovered music to be his great passion in life.
– More than 45 years later, that flame that started to burn in an eight year old Carel has transformed into a sizzling and inextinguishable fire.
– Next to this acclaimed concerts, Carel also wrote more than 30 own compositions so far. Many of these have been recorded and are available on several CDs.