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The rebirth of Aksak Maboul, an outstanding Belgian group

The world of music sounded by Covid-19? In Brussels, Crammed Discs, 40 years old, is resisting, and in the middle of the slump, the independent label is releasing three new albums, including a double, the copious Figures, an act of rebirth of the joyously unclassifiable Belgian group Aksak Maboul: twenty-two tracks for an extraordinary weave of pop and poetic and mischievous songs.Followed by a record by the Palestinian electro-dance duo Zenobia (on Acid Arab Records, of which the Parisian collective Acid Arab is artistic director within Crammed Discs) and, a little later, by the Anglo-Ugandan electro-tribal group Nihiloxica.

“We have to keep doing what we’ve always done: releasing records [375 albums to date], finding artists who motivate us. It’s like riding a bicycle, if you stop pedalling, you fall off,” philosophizes musician and Crammed Discs boss Marc Hollander, who can be reached by phone in his Brussels garden with his girlfriend, singer Véronique Vincent, author of the lyrics to Figures.

Since the label’s heyday, when Tanto Tempo (2000), the first album by Bebel Gilberto, daughter of the singer Miucha and bossa nova inventor João Gilberto, was released, the canopy has been considerably reduced: “There were twelve of us at Crammed and for the past few years we’ve been touring with five people, two of them part-time, plus a press agent. The economy of an independent label. It’s fragile but it’s holding up, “thanks to the fans who follow us and respect what we do.”

“A broad-spectrum label.”

From Aksak Maboul to Acid Arab, via Minimal Compact, Tuxedomoon, Carl Craig, Dominique Dalcan, Konono n°1, Taraf de Haïdouks, Juana Molina or Yasmine Hamdan, Crammed Discs takes every path.” It’s a broad-spectrum label, as they say antibiotics and Crammed’s DNA is Aksak Maboul,” sums up Marc Hollander, born in Geneva of Belgian parents in 1950.He grew up in Brussels, “a city where there wasn’t a dominant musical culture in the 1960s”: “So I was pecking from left to right, listening to English pop, psychedelic, rock, jazz blues, the Unesco [traditional world music] collection, contemporary music, American minimalists.All of that fed me first as a musician, a bit of a self-taught musician, tinkering with his own little grub, a personal thing you find in Aksak Maboul’s debut album, Eleven Dances to Fight Migraines”.


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