A Brief History Of Crammed

Crammed started in '81 as a logical extension of the concepts behind Aksak Maboul, a shapeshifting outfit based around Crammed founder Marc Hollander, who were playfully deconstructing & recycling all kind of musical styles to create a unique musical vision. With its fragments of jazz, electronics, fake African, Balkan & minimal music, Aksak Maboul's “Onze Danses pour Combattre la Migraine” album can retrospectively be viewed as a blueprint for most of the avenues explored by Crammed to this day. Ever since its birth, Crammed was therefore an artist-driven, genre bending and multicultural label.

From day one, the motto of the core Crammed agitators (Hollander, who was soon joined by co-label boss/art director Hanna Gorjaczkowska and producer/fellow Aksak Maboul member Vincent Kenis) has been to keep following their instincts, to trust their own taste and their inclination for eclecticism. The broadness of the label's scope was apparent since the first batch of releases, which already pointed towards rock, world music, electronic dance music and other directions: the aforementioned Aksak Maboul were soon followed by The Honeymoon Killers (the provocative French-singing rock band which managed to simultaneously charm hip press in the UK and prime-time TV in France), People In Control & Family Fodder (London bands with heavy dub leanings), Minimal Compact (and their Middle-Eastern flavoured new wave), and Crammed's precocious, early-80s incursions into electronic world music and club-oriented remixes with Zazou Bikaye, Nadjma etc. By the mid-Eighties, Crammed was clearly refusing to be limited by geographical and stylistic borders, was soon working with artists from all over the world (France, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Finland, Eire, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Romania, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Russia, the USA, Japan, Brazil, Iran, Israel, Congo, Ethiopia and... Belgium), and spreading their music in over 30 countries, through Europe, America and the Far East.

After a while, the impression arose that some of the audience and media found the diversity of the label's output a tad, let's say 'disorienting'… (compared to that of most independent labels, who generally specialized in a certain type of music). Crammed decided to start spreading its releases & acts across several specific labels.

First came MADE TO MEASURE (1984), which was intended as a collection of instrumental music, a kind of “composers’ series” on which 35 albums have come out, including John Lurie’s legendary soundtracks for the Jarmusch films ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ and ‘Down By Law’, as well as numerous releases by Hector Zazou, Sussan Deyhim/Richard Horowitz, Zelwer, Arto Lindsay, solo projects by Tuxedomoon members  etc.

The SSR dance label followed in '88, around the time of the first explosion of house music in the UK. After an initial string of adventurous 12” releases and club classics such as YBU’s “Soul Magic”, SSR lay dormant for a couple of years, and came back to life in 94 with the launch of the Freezone series, arguably one of the world’s best compilation of downtempo electronic music, which was curated by arch-tastemaker DJ Morpheus (assisted by the ubiquitous Hollander & Kenis). Thanks to Morpheus' flair, each of the seven volumes of Freezone introduced major electronic artists years before they came to prominence (Kruder & Dorfmeister, DJ Cam, Mighty Bop aka Bob Sinclar, Basement Jaxx, Matthew Herbert, LTJ Bukem, Thievery Corporation and many more). A&R'd by Morpheus & Hollander, SSR went on to release albums by major artists such as London’s jungle visionaries 4hero (in '95), trip hop pioneers Tek 9 ('96), Detroit icon Carl Craig ('97), French downtempo master Snooze, and inspired UK electronic jazz artist Juryman (aka Ian Simmonds).

During the 2nd half of the '90s, SSR was flanked by two little sister (label)s: avant-dance London-based imprint LANGUAGE was run by Tony Thorpe, and signed artists such as Buckfunk 3000, Elixir, Endemic Void and Circadian Rhythms, while Paris-based drum'n'bass imprint SELECTOR, with Catherine Piault at the helm, was the first outlet for jungle albums outside of the UK, and released records by 4hero, Subject 13, and the Jungle Vibes and Junglized compilations.

World music imprint CRAMWORLD was launched in '91. Its main initial signings were acapella Belgo-African female group Zap Mama (who released their first two –and most successful- albums and achieved worldwide success with the label), Romanian Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks, New York-based Persian vocalist Sussan Deyhim, Macedonian brass band Koçani Orkestar and many more, including electro-Balkanic stars Shantel & Balkan Beat Box.

Then came ZIRIGUIBOOM, an imprint launched at the end of ‘98 by Crammed in collaboration with Brazilian A&R/producer Béco Dranoff, and dedicated to those new Brazilian sounds which fit so perfectly with the Crammed ethos, with their sophisticated fusion of roots, pop and electronic elements. Ziriguiboom quickly became one of the major sources of new Brazilian music, and played a crucial role in that field,  having signed and developed iconic artists such as Suba, Cibelle, Zuco 103, Trio Mocotó, Celso Fonseca, Bossacucanova, DJ Dolores, and of course Bebel Gilberto, whose "Tanto Tempo" album has sold one million units worldwide.

Today, the genre-bending attitude is finally started to prevail around the world, and Crammed feel that sub-labels and categories are becoming superfluous. Most of the label's new projects are therefore all united under the single "Crammed" banner: aside from the Congotronics series (showcasing electro/ traditional African bands such as the emblematic Konono N°1, the Kasai Allstars 'supergroup' and the amazing Staff Benda Bilili, who have all become sensations with media & audiences worldwide), they include a string of highly individual, often transnational artists, who are navigating between electronica, indie rock, folk and whatever else (let's define them as being "postgenre"… ), including Lonely Drifter Karen, Maïa Vidal, SKIP&DIE, Amatorski, Juana Molina, Yasmine Hamdan, OY, Acid Arab, Le Ton Mité, Aquaserge, and the recently-revived Aksak Maboul (label boss Marc Hollander's band).

Distribution, marketing & staff

Alongside the purely creative aspects (discovering artists, producing albums, artistic direction), the international development of the artists' careers is one of the label's priorities and specialties. Operating from a small country, Crammed (which is a totally independent record company) has had to set up its own international network, based on one-to-one relationship with distributors and media all around the world, and has consequently acquired unparalleled expertise in launching unconventional artists on a worldwide basis. Through Crammed's tailor-made system, each new artist and each new release can benefit from a minimum media exposure and simultaneous release in around 30 countries.

Crammed is run by Marc Hollander and Hanna Gorjaczkowska. Hanna is in charge of artist develoment, and oversees all the marketing, promotion and distribution side of things, while Marc supervises business affairs & administration and serves as the company’s head of A&R. In-house producer Vincent Kenis works on discovering and recording bands from the Congo. Sofia Rasquin takes care of international promo coordination as well as digital promo, while David Beaugier oversees all promotion and marketing for France.

For all promotional enquiries, please contact our promo department.

For promotional enquiries specifically related to France, please contact our French office.

For any query related to the marketing & distribution of our releases worldwide, please contact our marketing & distribution department.

If you'd like to submit demos or finished recordings to Crammed, we'll be happy to listen to them. Please contact our A&R department and send us a description of your projects, links to mp3 files, any press etc. You are also welcome to send us CDs by post (address below). One important request though: please follow up by email only - we're unable to respond to phone calls in connection with music submissions.

Licensing & Synch Department
If you would like to license music for films, adverts, TV, compilations, please contact our Licensing Department.

Want to see a list of films, adverts & TV programmes that recently featured tracks by Crammed artists? Please visit this page.

If you want to listen to excerpts of over 1500 of our tracks, please go to our shop and hit the play buttons next to the song titles (on the album pages).

For a great cross-section of our latest releases, get the "It's A Crammed, Crammed World" compilation (excerpts of all tracks here)

Sign up to our monthly Newsletter now!

Crammed Address
Crammed Discs (head office)
43 rue Général Patton
1050 Brussels
phone: +322 640 79 14
fax: +322 648 83 69