Do Not Bend

June 4, 2012

It’s always sad to see how the powers that be don’t give a single shit about people’s integrity and true value, other than the $$$ they represent and the how they play the politics game. Two years after moving to Belgium I discovered the incredible experimental scene going on here, with KRAAK being one of the most influential and eye-opening organizations for me. Unlike other art and music instances with a certain “status”, KRAAK always kept its feet in the underground it came from, serving as a sort of gateway to all of the other amazing stuff happening not only in this small country, but all over the world. Now it seems that things are gonna change… but it won’t stop, no fucking way it won’t. “Do not bend”, like the elders say.


Well Received, But Unrewarded

(posted on 04/06/12 on KRAAK’s website)

KRAAK / (K-RAA-K)3 vzw is fifteen years old this year. So far that has equalled 81 releases, 80 RUIS magazine editions, 14 KRAAK festivals and hundreds of concerts and projects. But numbers were never of any interest. The DIY roots of KRAAK go back to a small cassette label in Bruges. A group of dedicated music lovers went on to develop it into a serious record label and a concert organization which supports an international scene of musicians below the radar. Still KRAAK is getting all its energy out of these headstrong musicians and composers with strong visions that do not necessarily break through to mainstream press or audience, but that are just the more valuable for a music landscape that is constantly injected with innovation frombelow. Rooted in an ideology in which there is no hierarchy between the artist, the promoter and the audience, but rather a constant interaction, KRAAK helps to build a blooming international underground and tries to promote the Flemish and Belgian part of this. This is not only important for a community as such, KRAAK often also functions as the first intermedium in the encounter of the Belgian audience with artists that only later gain a bigger reach, or with almost forgotten legends that influence new generations of experimental musicians. Animal Collective, Six Organs of Admittance, Kurt Vile, Wolf Eyes, Ducktails, Tony Conrad, Henry Flynt, Smegma, Sublime Frequencies… they all found their way to a Belgian stage before they raised interest with other promoters or media. KRAAK only exists because of these artists and their audiences. Their importance for an energetic music world that is not dominated by trends or mainstream press, but relies on an upright and authentic journey in search of artistic roots, should not be underestimated. Our record label mainly focuses on the Flemish share within this community and makes sure these artists can build an oeuvre, free from commercial strategies or marketing driven music business.  Artists such as Köhn, Tuk, Silvester Anfang, Ignatz, Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat, Dolphins Into The Future, Floris Vanhoof, Gerard Herman and many more have been able to realize their work like this in the past.

For this mission, KRAAK has received structural funding from the Flemish Government since 2007. For the new period 2013-2016, KRAAK handed in a new file to defend our aims. The file was well received by a commission which has to advise our Minister of Culture, Joke Schauvliege. This minister had previously asked this commission to make a ranking’ through which the importance of each organization within its field was quantified. This system was of course contested, but was nevertheless carried out with alienating and questionable results. KRAAK is in the 60th position of this ranking and is one of the four organizations which will not receive any funding, despite of the positive advise that was given. The money was all distributed once they reached number 59. Today in the newspaper De Standaard, the chairman of the commission Luc Mishalle says that the advised grant for KRAAK was 130.000 euros. That means a decrease of 20.000 euros, but it would let KRAAK survive. From the looks of things right now, KRAAK is going to lose it all. This would imply that the current activities would disappear. No more concerts in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Hasselt and Aalst, no more RUIS magazine, no more help with booking tours, no more concerts by foreign artists who are not commercially interesting, et cetera. KRAAK will not vanish as an organization, but it will be forced to become a small non-profit structure that entirely depends on volunteers and personal budget. With a subsidy budget of 87 million euros, we believe this to be a disproportionate impoverishment that leaves an important community of artists out in the cold. At the end of this month, we will know the official decision. KRAAK will do everything to defend what it stands for. Like our old motto used to say: Do Not Bend!

– Johan, Dave, Tommy, Steve & Glen

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