A look into Arno Carstens’ Universe

Arno Carstens
Arno Carstens

After more than two decades, award-winning singer-songwriter Arno Carstens still manages to amaze fans with new releases and mind-blowing performances.

Following on from this year’s earlier release, the eclectic Lift my Spirit; Arno delivered the pop track Empire of the Night in late August that retains heaps of Arno’s signature alternative song writing skills. This song leaves us with playful nostalgia and the words of Shakespeare that “time waits for no-one”. He received an incredible reaction from fans with great support across digital platforms over the past month.

We had a nice chat with Arno ahead of his performance at Park Acoustics on the 6th of October in Pretoria.

In 2016 you released his debut Afrikaans album, with the title Aandblom 13, in honour of you roots and where you grew up. What was the most pivotal thing that made you decide to start to write Afrikaans music?
I got a record deal offer for an Afrikaans album from Select SONY.  By that time, I’d done some nice shows with Francois Van Coke which gave me a good look at the vibes.  Very cool

In the biggest part of your career you were known as a singer-songwriter in the English market. What is the best and also the most troubling thing about writing in Afrikaans?
Mm, I had to get over my negativity towards the old Calvinistic conservative bullshit I grew up with. Then I started listening to more French, Italian and German music. It made me see Afrikaans in a more worldly romantic way. A beautiful language with a lot of character. The lights went on and I had a breakthrough; I was hooked. It instantly felt fresh and I personally think the album is some of my best work ever. It broadened my audience a bit, but most of all it enriched my being and gave me a new playground to mess with.

It is so good to see Springbok Nude Girls back on stage again! In the time that Springbok Nude Girls started out, the SA music scene has been very political. Bands like SNG and FPK has changed the scene in a lot of ways. Who do you feel will be the next shape shifters?
I was a big “voelvry” fan. They were real politically colourful characters. I think The Nude Girls were the opposite; we made music in English because we felt like we are a part of the world after 1994 and our influences were all English as well.  We never talked about it much; the only thing we ever said is “no politics”.

The new groups coming will either be devoid of any opinion or punk in their thinking. There is a lot happening out there to protest against, but the deliverance will be new and fresh, hopefully. Overall, I think audiences still respect and welcome good musicianship and interesting characters on stage.

Have you always seen yourself as being a music artist while growing up?
It was always between painter and singer-songwriter vibe, yes.

When you were in the process of writing Another Universe, did it always occur to you that it will be the massive hit that it is?
I knew it was a good song but no radio station wanted to play it until it made its way to the Volkswagen ad. Then suddenly the heavens’ gates opened once more. The song and Volkswagen saved my career in a big way.

What gripes you the most while on stage?
All the sounds are sometimes out of place and my brain needs to make sense of it in a matter of seconds to figure out where I am in a song. Hence my sometimes-perplexed look on stage. That’s why shows sometimes take 3 songs to settle into a groove. God bless a good sound engineer.

How do you keep yourself in shape? Any special procedures?
I run and work out 3 or 4 times a week. Not a big thing for me, I’ve always done it. It’s my only good habit.

As a music artist it’s always difficult to break through to a certain type of recognition. What is your opinion on Dames by Biggy?
I had a quick giggle … don’t have much to add. Any success is good, it doesn’t matter what type of music it is, so good on him.


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