The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Andrew Claes

Andrew Claes

Musician

Can you describe what you do?

I’m a musician, producer and musical researcher. I was born in Borgerhout, raised in Berchem and I’ve always lived in and around Antwerp. I now live close to the Melkmarkt in the city centre, in a neighbourhood that breathes history, cramped between the many impressive churches and cultural landmarks such as Café de Muze. I tend to avoid daily routines, the only set part of my day is sleeping. I’m currently working on some new projects after finishing the second STUFF. album.

How do you perceive Antwerp? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Its small size turns the city into a very personal one, yet one that’s still big enough to have some importance. I guess I feel lucky to live in a city that’s as diverse as Antwerp, as well. I once read that we’re in the top five of most multicultural cities worldwide. And it has a very rich history: during its golden period, when Antwerp was really flourishing, London was still nothing. Life is also relatively cheap in Antwerp, so the pressure to achieve is way lower than in other metropolises.

What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?

That’s a difficult question. Of course Antwerp is known for its fashion, and the city has always had an active cultural scene full of opportunities. I do have to mention noticing a slight decline in possibilities for musicians to perform due to stricter noise regulations. Sadly, some smaller venues had to close their doors lately. But Antwerp’s creativity is very resilient. Projects nearly always land on their feet after a while, and there’s always something to hook onto.

How would you say Antwerp has contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

At merely 19 years old, I already had the chance to perform in a bar as iconic as De Muze, alongside musicians with way more experience than me. Even though the bar became more of a tourist-oriented spot before it permanently closed, I still felt good playing there.

Antwerp’s creativity is very resilient.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

It might sound paradoxical since people here are often perceived as cocky, but I think we should be prouder of our city. And I’m not talking about some long-lost historical pride. I’m talking about a real pride for the city’s diversity. The melting pot of cultures is intrinsic to the city as a whole. I wish people would be less scared of this. 

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

I’d hook them up with a nice Airbnb in the city centre, take them for breakfast in one of the city’s many great coffee bars and take them for a vegan lunch at Wild Project. After, I’d take them for a visit of the cathedral to admire the Rubens paintings. Then finish the day at Het Bos, the Small Zoo project at the Arenberg theater or Club Vaag.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

I like the story of Mike Zinzen, a sax player and cult figure that used to hang around de Muze.  Although he couldn’t read music, he was a brilliant jazz musician. He used to carry around a little bird in his saxophone case. During his concerts, the bird would sit on his shoulder. Unfortunately Mike passed away some six years ago.

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Text by Erik De Beukelaer