HHV Label Watch: Sdban Records

Posted on 24/03/2023

Sdban was featured as part of HHV's "Label Watch".

Check the article below. Original article here.

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 label for exceptional - mostly Belgian - records from days gone by – but also Sdban Ultra, a sister label and home to the coolest Belgian jazz and funk bands.

His own record collection as a business plan: Stefaan Vandenberghe has been in the music business for a long time. As a DJ, he used to travel all over the world, visiting artists and labels and also visiting the small local record shops to stock up on local releases. Because of that there are various articles to his name on the internet. (About his extensive record collection, which formed the basis for the founding of his label Sdban: he claims that no one wants to help him move anymore). 

»More than once I found nice Belgian releases that were located at completely different music sections, stuff that remained 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 Belgian gems with the goal of making them accessible to a new audience.

»Most of these tracks were hidden as b-sides, library music or released in small quantities without a proper promotion or distribution plan«. The business plan? 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 even find the right copyrightholders.

Gut feeling as a business plan

The name of the label is derived from the name of the label boss: as a joke Stefaan was turned into a more exotic variant and his nickname became 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.«At the time there was no sound or scene in Belgium for this kind of music, says Vandenberghe. Everyone was doing their own thing somehow. »When compiling the Funky Chicken compilation I realised out that many artists had never heard of each other until recently«. Belgium is not a big country, and yet every region had its own clubs, its own nightlife, causing many musicians to never interfere with each other.

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 a cult status in the Belgian scene. An underrated record, says Vandenberghe.

Sdban is part of the Belgian label and distributor N.E.W.S. NV, which has existed 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 started collaborating on releases for Sdban. The team of Sdban consists of Ilja Bracke, who is in charge of international promo and branding, Stefaan himself who takes on the A&R role and who's in charge, and Arne D'hondt, who handles all productional details. 

A place to go for talents

Shortly after founding Sdban, Vandenberghe realised that Belgium had a very lively contemporary jazz scene so he decided to start a sister label as a home for these "Jazz Cats". 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 would experience the same problems as the releases in the 70ies – lack of promo, bad distribution, making them 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 roster.

»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 of this. Thanks to a label boss with the right gut feeling.

Text: Björn Bischoff (with some minor changes by Ilja Bracke)