Label Watch: Sdban Records

The story of the Belgian label Sdban Records began almost ten years ago with an impressive record collection. Today, there is not only Sdban, the one label for exceptional records from days gone by – with Sdban Ultra, a sister label for the current Belgian jazz and funk scene has been established too.

His own record collection as a business plan: Stefaan Vandenberghe has known the music business for a long time. As a DJ, he travelled the world, visited artists and labels, and there are various articles to his name on the internet. (Among other things, about his extensive record collection, which formed the basis for the founding of his label Sdban. Allegedly, no one wants to help him move anymore). On his travels, Vandenberghe also always visited the small local record shops to stock up on local releases.

»More than once I found cool Belgian releases but located at complete different music sections, and mostly underrated in the scene«, says Vandenberghe. It was on one of these occasions that he had the idea of founding the label. A label that specialises in these gems and makes them accessible to a new audience.

»Most of these tracks were hidden as b-sides, library music or released in small quantities without proper promotion or distribution«. The business plan? A gut feeling, “based on my passion for music and with the experience I’ve developed over the many years collecting music”. Even then, it was clear that since many of the releases had appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, it would be an adventure to get the rights for them. Or to find the rights holders at all.

Gut feeling as a business plan

The name of the label is derived from the name of the label boss: from Stefaan you make a more exotic variant and get the Spanish Esteban. From there it goes phonetically on to Sdban. And the record collection: Vandenberghe estimates that he owns over 55,000 records. »A very diverse collection containing a lot of electronic music as well as jazz, Brazil music, afro, disco,funk, dub.« 

Funky Chicken, the label’s first compilation, was released in 2014 – a series of Belgian funk tracks from the 1970s. “Rather than releasing singles or re-releasing the original albums, I thought it made more sense to compile a nice selection and include liner notes so that the listener would understand the idea of the label.” A specific sound or scene did not exist in Belgium at that time, says Vandenberghe. Everyone was doing their own thing somehow. “When compiling the Funky Chicken I’ve found out that many artists never heard of each other until now”. Belgium is not a big country, and yet every region has its own clubs, its own nightlife.

“More than once I came across cool Belgian releases, but they were located in completely different musical genres and were often underestimated in the scene”. – Stefaan Vandenberghe

From then on, it continued with various releases and compilations. Among them: Koen De Bruyne’s album Here Comes The Crazy Man! A record pumped up with fusion, originally released in 1974. Three years later, De Bruyne died. Today, the album has cult status in the Belgian scene. An underrated record, says Vandenberghe.

Sdban belongs to the Belgian label and distributor N.E.W.S., which has been in place since 1994. The business offices are located in the northern part of Ghent. (Good conditions: nice city, not too big, but a lively scene, many creative people). 21 music lovers work here in all areas of the music industry and sooner or later also for the publications of Sdban, where Ilja Bracke also works alongside Vandenberghe.

A place to go for talents

Shortly after founding Sdban, Vandenberghe realised that there were also a number of talented Belgian artists in the current jazz scene. So what to do? Found a sister label. With Sdban Ultra, there is now a place to go for up-and-coming musicians like the soul singer Adja. “As I was afraid they could experience the same problems as the releases in the 70ies – lack of promo, bad distribution, undiscovered for many years“. That’s where the reputation of the original helps: Vandenberghe gets a lot of music sent to him or slipped to him by other musicians on the label. Today, bands like Black Flower, STUFF., ECHT, De Beren Gieren and others are part of the programme.

“I feel lucky as Belgium has such a fertile scene and while the older generation still keeps evolving, a new generation is waiting to be discovered”. With Sdban, there is a place that captures all this. Thanks to a label boss with the right gut feeling.

Text Björn Bischoff

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