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