Foto Hanneloes Boonstra

30 years Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble: a Jubilee and farewell in one

Anyone who wants to see bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof at work with his full sextet will have to hurry up. Because when the anniversary tour of almost thirty performances across The Netherlands in November is over, it will also be the last curtain call for the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble after thirty years of existence. Too little work and too high costs have forced Kraayenhof to make the decision of continuing without his reliable group.

by Ton Maas


30 years Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble

But first of all the reason for this conversation, because there is much to celebrate. After all, a career of thirty years is an unique feat for an ensemble in this sector and that is also celebrated in a proper way with a new CD – 30! Passionate Tango Years – and a jubilee theatre tour that will soon be seen all over the country. Thirza Lourens: ‘It is also a great way for us to say thank you to the many loyal fans who have supported us all those years.’ Carel: ‘And to the thirty musicians who have played in my ensemble since 1988.’ Thirza continues: ‘And because of this jubilee there is also a lot of interest from the media. For example, Carel and his ensemble will be on four NPO radio stations: 1, 2, 4 and 5. They will be guests at Podium Witteman and get a feature in KLM’s in-flight magazine. It is of course a little ironic, now that we have had to decide to stop with the ensemble.’ Carel: ‘But we stop at a high point!’


Carel and his wife Thirza, who is for twenty-two years the business leader of the ensemble, are bluntly realistic about it. Thirza: ‘It just did not work anymore. For thirty years we have pushed and invested much of Carel’s own activities’ finances into the sextet, but the relationship between costs and benefits only got worse. It hurts a lot, but we have to let go of the ensemble’.

Carel continues: ‘In the end it’s all about my big dream, which has everything to do with the two most fantastic people I’ve been fortunate to work with: Astor Piazzolla and Osvaldo Pugliese. Thanks to this ensemble I have both the richness of tones of Piazzolla and the power of Pugliese. That gives me the feeling that I continue their work. Because that is, and remains, my mission. You can safely say that I am addicted to the sound of my sextet. Especially now that there is a cello next to the two violins, which gives the strings an orchestral dimension. And then there is Juan Pablo Dobal, the brilliant Argentinian pianist who, besides his own part, also manages to play the part of a second bandoneon from his piano. It is not an orquesta típica, but it is very close to it and I am very proud of that.’


Are the musicians exclusive to the Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble? Thirza: ‘No, but it has been their priority to play with us all these years. Thanks to their incredible loyalty it was possible to rehearse weekly – an absolute requirement for the dynamic of the ensemble – and that was always done for no financial compensation. What has made the situation even more difficult is that a growing number of theatres now paw lower guarantees. It can happen that you play for two hundred people, but ultimately only have a thousand euros after all the cost deductions; which then has to be shared by nine people (the musicians plus sound engineer, tour manager and business manager). That is no longer in proportion to the commitment we ask from everyone.’


Carel: ‘That legendary TV moment with Máxima’s tear, while listening to Adiós Nonino in the Nieuwe Kerk, has of course given my career a great boost. But the accompanying status of BN’er(public figure), to which I was subsequently (unsolicited) bombed with, reveals a fake picture of success and wealth. Many people think that I am constantly traveling the world and have earned a fortune with my music. The reality, however, is very different: I travel with my music in a cultural segment – the world music – that is dying. At least in the Netherlands. The financial cultural cutbacks of the last ten years have led to a downright defeat in world music, which affects everyone in the sector. Only most colleagues do not hold a permanent ensemble of this size. And furthermore, almost all of my musicians now have a family to maintain and a mortgage to pay.’


Carel: ‘Of course it is sad, but my accountant is cheering. For years, he has seen with a level of distress that thousands of euros were being invested in the ensemble. In addition, support from the media for our sextet continues to decrease.’ Thirza adds: ‘Moreover, we must have realized that the interest is mainly in Carel and not in the sextet. By insisting on promoting the sextet and not Carel as a soloist, we also contributed to Carel being less seen on TV.’


Thirza: ‘For quite some time we have drawn hope from the fact that even the big names of the tango were at times not able to play for years, or only as a soloist or as a duo, but the cultural poverty in the Netherlands is now so worrying that even something as essential as music education is pretty much gone, cut away.’ Carel: ‘And where else should the new generation of musicians come from? In our neighbourhood the music school in Purmerend recently had a new qualification to be able to provide music education in secondary schools. But just two weeks after they obtained it, the director was informed that the subsidy for the current year had been halved and would be completely cancelled for next year. Her team serves more than a thousand secondary school students and they will no longer receive music lessons. And that while in recent years it has been scientifically proven that music (like Bach’s) stimulates the development of the children’s brain in a very positive way. Apparently, the importance of this does not get enough attention.’


That then brings the conversation to the importance of making music together, in the intimate setting with family and friends. Carel: ‘In many other countries you see that this practice is still alive and kicking. With us it only gets less and less, partly due to the lack of music schooling. I cannot escape that either: most people still know me exclusively as the man who played at their wedding and made Máxima shed a tear.’ Thirza adds: ‘For Carel, the tango is something much bigger: a living tradition that should not only be retained but also further developed. This ambition is very alive and appreciated not only in Argentina, but also in countries such as Germany and Japan.’


Carel: ‘Gustavo Beytelmann, artistic director of the Department of Argentine Tango of Codarts in Rotterdam, once asked our students a very interesting question: “Do you think the tango is there for you, or are you there for the tango?” Gustavo says that every music genre that is capable of surviving for a hundred years without any support from government or industry, simply because it is in the people, is an authentic force that deserves to be respected. That is why we are there to serve the tango. For me that meant: immersing myself in Buenos Aires, in the tango, and analysing the work of the masters by transcribing it minutely – for thousands of hours. I have spent a month working on sixteen bars of Pugliese: What does he exactly play? What does the double bass do, what does the second bandoneon do? That is how I learned to arrange, only to then start composing myself. And I have always sought the connection with my own background in Celtic and classical music.’


Carel: ‘There have been times when I doubted whether I still wanted to continue now that music – at least my kind of music – is being removed, more and more each time, from our cultural circle. But then I think of the young musicians who I will undoubtedly meet and who will inspire me again. I can even imagine that in a few years I might set up a new ensemble; but not with me as a main player, because I never really aspired to that role, it just came about’.


‘I look forward to meeting new people and to develop things together. Just by hanging out together, to work together for some time on ideas and compositions. I will definitely look for that in the coming period. I still dream of a “band of composers”. In that sense, I also see this moment as an opportunity to tackle my dreams differently than before. And I don’t mean it only business like, but also on the artistic process.’


‘At a certain moment you notice that you are drifting away from reality as a person. I realize that I have become a sort of “professional idiot” who is only occupied with his work. On the one hand I find it terrible that this happens to us now, but on the other hand, I also see that it is an opportunity. It gives space to do other things: act as a soloist or as a duo, not only playing in large halls but also in small circles. Take for example playing during a wedding. How special is it to be able to be part of one of the most important moments of someone’s life with your music! Fantastic! How do I see the future? I feel like taking on new challenges and I still absolutely adore to make music.’

Chacarera – Carel Kraayenhof

I am the best bandoneonist of Noordbeemster! That’s not an alternative fact, but an accurate description: I am the only bandoneonist in our tiny village…So tiny, that, when my twins were born nineteen years ago, the population augmented with one percent.
At the edge of the village lives one of my friends, who is a biological greengrocer; when I asked him what kind of music he would like me to write for him, he said to my shock: a chacarera! Oh dear, I thought, I have never done that before! Chacarera is a special kind of Argentine folk music, polyrhythmic and rooted in an old tradition. Since 2010, when pianist Juan Pablo Dobal and I started our duo, I have been learning to play the chacarera, thanks to the knowledge and help of my brilliant collegue; on the other hand, writing one is another matter…
By the way, I should have mentioned that my friend is in fact the only Argentinian in our village. So now I am trying to write a chacarera for the best Argentine greengrocer in Noordbeemster!

Summer column Carel Kraayenhof – E-bike

e-bikeI first stepped on a bicycle when I was four years old, and kept on biking full-time until I was forty; then I moved to the Beemster and needed a driver´s license, as local public transport didn´t meet my needs as a constant travelling musician. So sadly my bicycle started to feel lonely, and the heavy Beemster wind didn´t improve my urge to make a ride: no matter in which direction you start, you always seem to have a strong headwind.
When Thirza decided to buy an E-bike because of the condition of her knees, I realized it would be a tiresome job keeping up with her: so I purchased one too.
Although it defies all courageous behavior of a true Spartan, I can call myself now the proud owner of a Sparta E-bike. Definitely the best therapy you can get: some magical force is giving me a push whenever I need it…So coming from the supermarket on my amazing bike with heavy-loaded saddlebags, at twenty miles an hour, I tend to overtake surprised youngsters in disbelief on their sporting bikes…

Sommer Column Carel Kraayenhof – Cats

What I like about cats, is that in our relationship hierarchy never is an issue: far from being able to describe myself as their owner, they choose to co-exist with me.
To put it more accurate: the bottom line is that they are convinced that they are in charge.
The cats who live with us are Blokje and her son Beer (Bear), who is twice as big; long time ago they seem to have lost all awareness about their family relationship, but their common goal is usually the same: food and affection when needed. I don´t know how they manage, but they always give me the feeling that I should be grateful for rendering them a service, when I open a door for them, feed them or bring them to the vet.Katten
And here I am, working like a madman composing and arranging music all day through,
and there is Beer, lying in the grass like a sunbathing tourist, looking at me through the open window; do I see indifference in his half closed eyes, or does he actually have pity on me?
That´s the thing with cats; they seldom share their opinion with you openly.
Even when Blokje rubs her head affectionately against my leg, I realise I feel proud that
it´s my leg she has chosen, not a random one of the kitchen table.

Summer column Carel Kraayenhof – Yoga

This summer, Carel will write a few columns about his private live. He post them on Tuesday on his facebook. After this he will post them also on his website. Have fun reading them.

Since about two years I do yoga: as, over the last thirty years, my bandoneon playing didn´t seem to loosen up any muscles except for my fingers and my brain, I decided to try to achieve some flexibility in other parts of my body.
That is to say: my wife Thirza persuaded me to do a beginner´s course in Amsterdam at the Nieuwe Yogaschool with Johan Noorloos, who soon became a close friend. With Johan we went to his yoga-retreat in Malaga, and after that I started taking classes close to my home in the Beemster with yogateacher Leigh MacDonald, who has been his student. At first I tried to explain to my twin sons how wonderful Leigh´s yoga turned out to be for me, but my boys kept on telling me that yoga is for sissies. So now, when they ask me where I go, I simply say: I´m off to McDonald´s…

Sometimes you are out of luck ………

And sometimes all comes together!
The summer vacation period is here and many of you leave for distant places. For others, the sun shines especially here in the Netherlands.
In the past month, Carel has recorded two beautiful tracks with two special Dutch singers. For the new CD of Trijntje Oosterhuis he played together with Uruguayan guitarist Leonardo Amuedo on a moving song, ‘Eenzaam zonder jou’; and together the Volendammer Jan Smit he recorded a happy danceable hit, ’De Wereld Rond’. Both CDs will be released in early September.

And then we were just out of luck…
The repertoire was rehearsed, the sound engineers and the catering were ready, all the musicians were in top condition and then, the bandoneon’s tuning (442hz) just wasn’t there. At the beginning of July we would have recorded Carel Kraayenhof Ensemble’s new CD, ’30!’ if the bandoneon’s tuning was up to the job. Due to circumstances, Carel’s regular tuner didn’t manage to get this done in time. As a result, the recordings have been postponed until after the summer holiday.
The release for this CD is now scheduled for early February 2018.
affiche 30 voor Nieuwsbreif juli

The complete concert agenda for the coming season is on our website. Take some time this summer to take a look at this extensive list.
Of course you have April 8, 2018 already in your agenda, that is the premiere of our new theater concert ’30! bevlogen tangojaren’ (passionate tango years) at the Philharmonie in Haarlem. In addition to our concerts with DUO, CKE and Lavinia Meijer, there are three special projects that we want to highlight:
1. In early September we will accompany the National Ballet of The Netherlands for the third time, on a program which will include choreographies of, the now eighty-five-year-old, Hans van Manen. During this project, we will guide the section ‘5 Tango’s’ (20 min.) and the Sexteto Canyengue will be complemented by percussionist Frank Wardenier and guitarist Elliot Muusses.
2. In early December, Carel will give a workshop ‘Argentinian Tango’ together with Bert, Jaap and Juan Pablo to the chamber ensemble of Het Gelders Orkest. After that Carel and Juan Pablo will perform three concerts with this ensemble.
3. In early January, Carel and Juan Pablo will give three New Year’s concerts with Het Zeeuws Orkest.

We are going to take it easy between August 1st and August 15th. We wish you happy summer weeks.

Warm regards
Carel and Thirza

News Letter January

Dear friends and colleagues,
It’s time to snuggle by the fireplace and read a good book or watch a good movie with a cup of tea. You can also listen to the radio; for example to the programs in which Carel was a guest of in the past month. Here you can listen to all five days in the past week in which Carel introduced some of his favorite songs in the radio program ‘Muziekwijzer’. Here is the link: (copy the link to your web browser) to the broadcast of ‘Opium’, which Carel and Lavinia were guests. The featuring guest of the program was the actor Pierre, please copy in your web browser
Do not feel like listening to the radio but want to read a nice article? Then get this month’s magazine ‘Nouveau’, with an interview with Carel and Thirza and beautiful photos by Casper Rila.
nouveau_febr._carel_en_thirza_0-page0 photo: caper Rila
Of course you can also choose to listen to some of our different concerts on the coming weeks. For example in Zaandam, Moordrecht, Noordwijk, Ede and Utrecht, among others. For more information see our agenda.
’30!’ Premieres in April 2018
Following our last newsletter, in which we asked you to email us your memories of Carel’s concerts, we have received quite a lot of great stories. All these pieces are very inspiring when composing this new theater concert. Keep sending them to Do not forget to include your name and address.
Warm regards,
Carel and Thirza
Carel Kraayenhof-2-fuji75 photo Carlien Sikkenk

Concert Maastricht – Derlon Hotel

There are a few cities where Carel Kraayenhof & Juan Pablo Dobal just do not visit enough times. Maastricht is such a city. Thanks to the invitation of Hotel Derlon Maastricht’s General Manager (Sione Götte) the duo Kraayenhof & Dobal will perform at the beautiful, romantic and timeless Theater Cafe La Bonbonnière on December 22nd.
In collaboration with the Hotel Derlon you can book a ticket together with an overnight in Maastricht and a special theater dinner. The musicians will perform their program Hotel Victoria. In this program the nostalgic memories of touring are brought back to life and the meaning Hotel Victoria, in Mendossa (North of Argentina) has for traveling musicians in that country. In the music you can hear the adventure, but also the longing for home. How many evenings and nights don’t end after the concert in the dressing room of a theatre or in the hotel bar, where the bandoneón is pulled out of its case and the old hotel piano is opened once again… And that you wake up and have forgotten where you are…
A musicians life is a crazy beautiful life, that of a ‘loco lindo’!
An evening full of amazing music, from the Argentinian folklore to tango, milonga, zamba, chacarera, cueca, guarania and also own compositions. For bookings please visit:

Extra concert Ede Carel Kraayenhof & Lavinia Meijer

Considering that the concert of 27 January 2017 is already sold out, an extra concert has been confirmed at the Edesche Concertzaal, Ede (NL) for 24 February 2017. For tickets please visit:

Concert tip: Dino Saluzzi – October 26 in Amsterdam

We would like to share with you that the bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi will perform on the 26th of October at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and on the 11th of November at the Lantaren/Venster in Rotterdam. We will for sure be present at the concert in Amsterdam.

With El valle de la infancia the now 81 years old Argentinean bandoneonist/composer/arrangeur Dino Saluzzi returns to his roots in the North West of Argentina. Together with musicians out of his own family Saluzzi explores a wide pallet of rhythms and melodies, from zamba to carnavelito or even a chacarera. But the music of Buenos Aires will also be present. In Saluzzi’s refined and versatile tango interpretations you can feel the base of their origins, the milonga.
Dino Saluzzi received in 2014 the Edison World award for El valle de la infancia. With an amazing interaction the CD touches “not only the base of the volk music, but also the essence from Saluzzi’s own extensive works”; words from the Edison jury.

Dino Saluzzi was only seven years old when his father, the composer and multi-intrument player Cayetano Saluzzi taught him to play different instruments. The bandoneon quickly became his favourite and at 14 he dominated the instrument well enough to start and lead his own band, Trio Carnaval. Somewhat in the shadows from Astor Piazzolla he has created works at least as impressive as the works from the other great Argentinian masters. Saluzzi always distanced himself from Piazzolla’s ‘tango nuevo’ and highlighted in interviews that he was not involved in making intellectual art music, but music that could touch the widest range of emotions possible.

Saluzzi’s music is composed of a complex, but always accessible, mix of tango, jazz and volk music, with some traces of classic music. He has performed with famous jazz musician such as Gato Barbieri, Charlie Heden, Charlie Mariano and Al DiMeola. In 2010 he has recorded with his trio and The Metropole Strings a beautiful, and by now well sold, album entitled El Encuentro. This was the debut from The Metropole and Jules Buckley at the ECM records label.

Dino Saluzzi is unparalleled. That is another reason why last year ECM records brought out the album Imágenes, with Saluzzi’s compositions for piano. Dino’s style is absolutely unique and deviates from Piazzolla’s style because he comes from Campo Santo, an isolated village in the north of Argentina. When his father put a bandoneon for the first times on his hands the message must have been clear “Go ahead and start playing tango, but don’t forget to put in it the influence of the indians from our region and the imprint that breath taking beauty of the nature has left on us”. (

This is an unique chance to see this, 81 years old, legend on stage in The Netherlands!

Dino Saluzzi – bandoneon
Jose María Saluzzi – guitar
Félix ‘Cuchara’ Saluzzi – tenor saxophone / clarinet
Matías Saluzzi – double bass
U.T. Gandhi – drums / percussion