Canadian band stands up for their rights

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Have you ever wondered what Canadian artists think about being Canadian? This doesn't refer to the "I am Canadian" slogan, beer ads or July 1 celebrations of sovereignty. As the submissive little brother of the U.S., many homegrown artists have come to realize how necessary it is to gauge their career with a grain of salt.

"When [artists] ask themselves the question, 'Do you do well in the states?' they're making it important and I think it's something that Canadians should get over," says Jay Malinowski of Bedouin Soundclash.

As lead singer and guitarist of the Juno-winning band, Malinowski is empathetic to why some might consider winning best new group of the year a shallow victory.

"I think it's really cool that we won a Juno and I think it's really important to take Canadians and Canada seriously," Malinowski says.

Bedouin Soundclash draws its roots from very humble beginnings, not unlike the circumstances faced by artists countrywide. As university students in a band, the three Ontarian musicians struggled to raise money to record their first album back in 2001.When asked about the band's first real earnings from a show, Malinowski is reminded of the intense pride that first paycheque gave them.

"We thought we were rich," he recalls fondly. "We went out after the show to celebrate that we'd actually had a show and we were about to spend the money, [but] then we said, 'No, we're going to save up. We should put this money away.' So we started a cash box and that's how we paid for Root Fire."

After months of scrimping, they were able to buy themselves 12 hours of studio time and recorded their whole album in a half day for $400.

The implications of recent federal budget cuts translate very seriously to bands like Bedouin Soundclash. PromArt, the program which is being cut, has served to fund the recording, touring and advertising of up-and-coming artists. Canadian foreign affairs minister representative Anne Howling justified the Prime Minister's actions by indentifying some of the bands affected by the budget cut as "unrepresentative and, at worst, offensive." Malinowski is concerned.

"When a government can decide unilaterally what it deems acceptable art we are living in dangerous times," he says.