The notion of Canada tends to conjure up images of nice cerebral people, snowy mountain tops and mounties on horseback (think of the cop from Due South). But reggae? Hardly. So the thought of a reggae/folk band from Toronto would probably not get the regulars at the Notting Hill Carnival too excited. However, even if their style is not the most exciting, by mixing elements of indie/folk music with reggae, Bedouin Soundclash have created a surprisingly fresh, very listenable sound.
The three-man group (consisting of lead singer and guitarist Jay Malinowski, bassist Eon Sinclair and Sekou Lumumba on the drums) have been together since 2001 and have since been successful in the alternative music charts and in the roots/reggae scene. They are good enough to be recognised by other modern day reggae stars, such as Damian Marley but generally, despite their success, are not credited with being a genuine reggae outfit.
This is simply because the group have found that their most popular songs, such as When The Night Feels My Song and St Andrews, are generally the ones that sound more folk/indie rock than the ones that lean more towards a reggae sound. Funnily enough, this pattern repeats itself with the group’s newest album, Light The Horizon.
For example, the most successful song so far from the album and arguably the best track on it is Mountain Top. Although a great listen, with its quick drum line and guitar-based beat, it sounds nothing like one would expect from a reggae song. Brutal Hearts is another that sounds absolutely nothing like reggae but is again one of the best tracks on the album, with its ultra slow drum rhythm and soft vocals from the superbly named female singer Coeur De Pirate, who sounds very similar to former X-Factor contestant and now B-list pop-star Diana Vickers.
This is not to say that Bedouin Soundclash cannot do reggae, as when they do incorporate more of the reggae sound into their songs they can produce good music. Fools Tattoo is a good, old-school reggae example, while A Chance Of Rain is the kind of reggae that you would have thought could only be created by those hailing from the Caribbean, both danceable and meaningful at the same time.
The major problem is simply that Malinowski’s voice sounds oh-so Canadian, which does not go with the reggae twang of cut-up guitar riffs and the slow bass rhythms. This does not diminish the quality of their reggae sound; it is simply why they have found more success with their tracks that sound less reggae-ish.
Bedouin Soundclash are very similar to and probably take a lot of inspiration from the world’s most famous white-man reggae group UB40. Indeed, they are good enough to warrant the comparison.
Light The Horizon could very well be their best album to date but, at just 10 songs in 34 minutes, it will not be enough for fans, especially the new ones that are hearing them for the first time. Even if Dancehall has overtaken its predecessor and the masses will favour the tracks that sound strictly like indie/folk rock, Light The Horizon is a beacon of hope for international reggae music.