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Just who are The Bedouin Soundclash?

Feature: Jack Foley

ON FIRST hearing Sounding a Mosaic, Bedouin Soundclash’s sophomore release, you’d be excused for thinking the trio met in Kingston, Jamaica, rather than Kingston, Ontario, about three hours outside of their hometown of Toronto.

But that’s where vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Jay Malinowski, bassist Eon Sinclair and drummer Pat Pengelly first met, at University, where a shared love of reggae music in all its various forms brought them together to form a band in 2001.

"We started trading records and realized we liked similar music," says Malinowski, a painter with a prestigious Toronto gallery whose oil and wax piece adorns the cover of the album. "We never planned to play together."

Malinowski came to the music through a love of The Clash and ’80s Two-Tone bands like The Specials and the English Beat, while Sinclair, whose parents were from Guyana, brought a feel for soca, hip-hop and dancehall toasters such as Buju Banton.

But one listen to songs like the single, When the Night Feels my Song, which warmly evokes Toots and the Maytals’ classic, Pressure Drop, and you know where Bedouin Soundclash is really coming from.

It’s a tribute to the original ska and reggae by way of The Harder They Come and the original Wailers… music influenced by sweet American soul and R&B and made universal by the vision and songs of Bob Marley.

"We’re a bunch of Canadian kids making music that is really far from our homes, so we try to make it true to what we grew up with," explains Malinowski.

"We take it and do something to make it our own. Bob Marley was the first Third World pop star who proved, though coming from a small island, this music can speak to people around the world."

Taking their name from Israeli producer Badawi’s 1996 album, Bedouin Soundclash take the notion of culture clash to its music.

The group mixes reggae, ska, dub and rock in a way that recalls not only blue-eyed predecessors like The Police and UB40, but Jamaican icons Desmond Dekker, Bob Andy, Ken Lazarus, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Junior Murvin.

Produced by Darryl Jenifer, the bassist for Bad Brains, another groundbreaking band that fused hard core with reggae, Sounding a Mosaic lives up to its name.

Their version of the Maytones’ Money Worries features guest vocals from that band’s Vernon Buckley, now part of Montreal’s vibrant West Indian community, home of Bedouin Soundclash’s Canadian label Stomp, which put out the group’s debut, Root Fire, when the three were still college freshmen.

"Where Americans talk about a melting pot, Canadians like to refer to a mosaic," explains Jay about the country’s multi-culturalism. "A melting pot expresses the idea of assimilation, that no matter where you come from, you’re an American. Here, we maintain our original ethnic identity while still mixing with others."

As chief songwriter, Malinowski’s influences include the narrative bent of a Dylan and the social consciousness of a Joe Strummer.

Jeb Rand was inspired by Raoul Walsh’s 1947 noir western Pursued, in which Robert Mitchum plays a man with amnesia whose father was murdered and can’t figure out why people are trying to kill him.

Hear When The Night Falls In

Read our review of the album

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