Bedouin Soundclash use fame to shed light on social issues

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Bedouin Soundclash performs a benefit concert supporting Doctors Without Borders at the Opera House tonight. The band has been involved in a number of charitable initiatives lately.

Count the number of charity-related happenings featuring Bedouin Soundclash of late: A Global Darfur Benefit performance this past September, an appearance on the War Child Canada compilation CD Help!: A Day In The Life and this month’s charity show to support Doctors Without Borders.

Certainly aligning oneself with a worthy cause can translate to simply wonderful-enough exposure for any band. But for lead singer/guitarist Jay Malinowski, in particular, the reasons tend to be more personal and meaningful.

"My girlfriend Angie is Sri Lankan and her uncle runs a Doctors Without Borders clinic in the north of Sri Lanka," Malinowski says. "I visited there about three years ago. He had this children’s orphange as well as the clinic. And when the southeast Asian tsunami hit (two years ago), that whole area was completely wiped out."

As for the Darfur benefit, "at first none of us in the band were fully aware of what was going on in that region of Sudan at the time. But if people like us have the opportunity to learn more about it, then that’s something we could shed light on to our fans. Besides, the bands that I’ve always liked went reaching for things a bit beyond just being in a band."

While Malinowski, bassist Eon Sinclair and drummer Pat Pengelly are busy educating their loyal fan base, their mix of reggae, dub, soul, ska, punk and rock is getting exposed through avenues other than cyberspace and word-of-mouth. Though forming out of Queen’s University in 2001, they began popping up all over radio and video stations, not to mention in a TV ad for Zellers, in the past couple of years with their signature hit When The Night Feels My Song. A newly released song called 12:59 Lullaby — available on an EP through iTunes — just recently appeared on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

Expect more new Bedouin material to pop up by the spring, when the band is expected to drop its third effort, Street Gospels. "It’s a bit richer sounding and lyrically stronger than what we’ve done before," Malinowski says. "And we’ve seemed to have finally found our own sound, rather than us trying to sound like someone else."

Even musical peers outside of their own twentysomething age circle have taken kindly to the trio. At last year’s Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Bedouin Soundclash honoured a visibly impressed Andy Kim with a rendition of the legendary singer-songwriter’s hit for The Archies, Sugar, Sugar. And earlier this year, the three enjoyed a dinner out with former Police guitarist Andy Summers.

"I remember saying to him, ‘Look, I’m just going to ask you: Do you hate Sting?’ And his response was, ‘No, I don’t. But I have this book coming out (the just-released One Train Later). You should read that to really find out.’ "

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