With a new lineup and their own label, Bedouin Soundclash sees a new horizon
By Kevin Longrie
Jay Malinowski and Eon Sinclair have always been ambitious. At Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where they met while students, they decided not only to form a band together—the beginnings of which would soon mold into popular Canadian reggae group Bedouin Soundclash—but that it should go beyond their campus. They could not have predicted the success they have found over the last decade—winning multiple Juno awards (Canada’s answer to our Grammies), touring alongside bands like No Doubt and seeing the world. But they did have two important things: direction and persistence.
The pair, along with drummer Pat Pengelly, released their first record as Bedouin Soundclash in 2001. Root Fire was recorded and released while the group was still attending Queen’s, and it was met with limited success. It was not till the release of their second album three years later, Sounding a Mosaic, that they started picking up steam (and quite a lot of it). The album went platinum relatively quickly, due in no small part to the resounding success of their single “When the Night Feels My Song.”
Their breakthrough success afforded them the opportunity to go on longer international tours, and they soon got accustomed to playing in big cities around the world. Sinclair, the band’s bassist, told CULTURE about some of the differences in playing abroad. Outside of North America, “the culture of music is such that people come out wanting to have a good time, wanting to sing, wanting to engage with the band and make a party happen.” He says the same is true for many concertgoers in the United States and Canada, but that many seem to “come out almost as a challenge for you to entertain them.”
According to Sinclair, this North American entitlement is remarked upon by many touring bands.
“That’s not to say that touring North America is more of a struggle,” Sinclair adds quickly, “They’re just different.” He spoke about language differences, and the complications that arise when traveling and playing shows abroad.
But he makes clear that Bedouin Soundclash is profoundly thankful to be able to tour wherever their fans will come to see them. (The group is also pro-cannabis as Sinclair told CULTURE, “From what I know, it seems like legalizing medicinal marijuana has both economic and personal health benefits.”)
Their most recent record—Light the Horizon, their fourth—comes off the heels of an extended hiatus for the band, as well as a shift in the lineup.
“The band wasn’t really working the way we wanted it to,” Sinclair explains. [Drummer] Pengelly left the band two years ago and was replaced by Sekou Lumumba, a man praised by Sinclair for his versatility and dynamism behind a drum kit as well as his background in several different genres.
“It was a mutual discussion,” Sinclair says, “and that was the change everybody seemed to want to make.”
And with Light the Horizon, released late last year, Sinclair believes this record is a sign of progress, of a newfound “maturity” for the band.
Their success was also about to afford them to luxury of founding their own label, Pirates Blend Records.
“We started it because we were between labels and we had an opportunity to do our own thing,” Sinclair explains. “Sony records in Canada was gracious enough and had similar ideas and a similar philosophy about it so they partnered with us to bring Pirates Blend to life.”
A SINCERE FORM OF FLATTERY
What’s in a name? When the name is “Bedouin Soundclash,” things can get confusing. There’s Bedouin Soundclash the reggae outfit from Canada (the subject of the feature on this page) and there’s Bedouin Soundclash, the title of a 1996 Middle Eastern-steeped dub album by the Jerusalem-born, New York City-raised producer/percussionist/artist who records under the name Badawi. So what’s the connection? The Canadians took their name from the Badawi album. Case closed!