Democratoz

Hard grooving reggae, rai & rock from cosmopolitan Oran                            

Democratoz lays down hard-grooving reggae, rai & rock with all the ecstasy and defiance of young North Africa. Hailing from Oran, Algeria's cultural nexus, the group digs back into the city's best-loved pop form, rai, and makes dance-floor filling calls for social change in the bargain. "With its galvanizing set, Democratoz electrified the crowd, which had gathered en masse from the four corners of the desert to be here, much to the surprise of the local authorities, and festival organizers." (La Liberté/Algeria)

u.s. debut with center stage

ON TOUR July 14 - August 7

tour overview

boston, ma - july 14-17

  • Democratoz starts their Center Stage tour with a free, outdoor performance on Boston's historic Boston Common as part of Outside the Box Festival. They take the stage on July 16th. Information here. They'll also visit with other artists, and take in other festivals while they're in town.

washington, DC - July 18-21

  • Democratoz makes their way to Washington, D.C. for their welcome at the State Department, rehearsal time at the Kennedy Center, sightseeing and performances.
  • The band performs at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on July 19 at 6pm. The free performance will be webcast live and available for streaming on demand from the Kennedy Center website. Information here.
  • On July 21, Democratoz heads to DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood for two sets at Bossa Bistro. More information here. Interested? Follow the event on Facebook.

New York, NY - July 22-27

  • Democratoz brings their reggae-rai-rock mix to Harlem for two sets at one of the city's first class world music venues, The Shrine, on July 22nd. More information here.
  • While they are in the NYC metro area, they'll attend concerts, and meet up and jam with other artists.
  • July 26th, they'll prerecord an episode of interviews and performances for WFMU's Transpacific Sound Paradise for later broadcast.

Huntington, NY - July 28

  • The band heads to Long Island for the 51st edition of the Huntington Summer Arts Festival. The free outdoor performance takes place at 8:30pm on July 28th. Information here.

Los Angeles, CA - July 30-August 1

Berkeley, CA - August 3

  • On their way from Los Angeles to Garberville, California the band makes a stop in Berkeley. They perform at the intimate, new venue The Backroom on August 3rd. Information here.

Garberville, CA - August 4-7

  • Two hundred miles north of San Francisco, the annual Reggae on the River Festival hosts one of the nation's largest gatherings of the reggae tribe. Democratoz will perform an acoustic set on August 4 and a full performance on the main stage on August 5 then take the scenic route down the California coast before departing for home. 

program notes and bios

Democratoz
Oran, Algeria

U.S. debut tour as part of Center Stage

Sadek Bouzinou             Lead Vocals

Popey Guettaba              Electric Guitar, Percussion and Back Vocals

Amine Marley                  Bass

Nassim Slimani               Electric Guitar, Percussion and Back Vocals

Fares Benlechehb          Tenor Sax and Percussion

Halim Roots                     Drums

Mehdi ‘lilg’ Benzerga      Keys with computer/sampler and Back Vocals

 

DEMOCRATOZ was founded in December 2011 as a 19-year State of Emergency in Algeria was lifted and as neighboring Tunisia and Egypt launched what is now known as the Arab Spring. The band’s musical experimentations bring together multiple genres and diverse influences. Democratoz makes creative space for reggae, rai, rock, Diwan, Chaabi, Afro-beat elements, jazz, improvisation, electronic sounds, and aural reminders of the (post)- industrial world.

All of this mixing comes naturally to Democratoz, who hail from Oran, the cosmopolitan city on Algeria’s Mediterranean coast known as the cradle of North Africa’s best-known sound, rai (“opinion” in Arabic). From its outskirt origins in the early 1900s, to its 1980s jump from cabarets into the international limelight, and to its current resurgence, it has maintained its primacy as a cacophonous voice of the people. Among rai’s mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, French, and other influences, its sound owes some of its heady punch to reggae. “Our city has a history that’s connected to reggae,” explains Sadek. “Rai has roots in reggae, mixed with folk music. Even if they don’t know that rai came from reggae, people here get reggae; they love the bass and the drums.”

As progressive, positive activators of social change, Democratoz talks about the issues, taboos, and frustrations, as well as the joys and hopes of contemporary Algerian society, in the everyday Arabic dialect spoken on the streets.

Under the auspices of Center Stage, Democratoz makes it US debut this summer with a month-long tour that includes engagements in Boston, Washington, DC, New York City, Long Island, and a trip up the California coast from Los Angeles through Berkeley to Humboldt County.

About Center Stage

Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) invites performing artists from select countries overseas to the United States to perform and conduct engagement activities.

Now in its third edition, five acclaimed contemporary music and theater ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania will travel to the U.S. between July and November, 2016; two bands from Pakistan will tour in the spring of 2017. Each group undertakes independent, month-long tours around the country to perform, interact, begin meaningful dialogues with Americans, and share these experiences with friends and fans at home. Center Stage artists perform and engage with audiences onstage and online providing positive and popular avenues of engagement to build mutual understanding through shared culture and values.

Each tour includes a range of community engagement activities, such as performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, and community gatherings.  To date, 17 ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Vietnam have toured the United States, focusing on interactive engagements in diverse cities and towns across the country.

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

Keep up with Center Stage and find additional information at www.CenterStageUS.org, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CenterStagePage), and Twitter (@CenterStageUS).

Democratoz Center Stage Tour Staff
Theresa L. Teague Company Manager
Robert W. Henderson, Jr. Technical & Production Coordinator

background

Revolution and Reconnection: Algerian Rai, Rock and Reggae meet in Democratoz

Sadek Bouzinou  Lead Vocals
Abderrahmen "Popey"  Electric Guitar, Percussion and Back Vocals
Amine Mallek  Bass
Nassim Slimani  Electric Guitar, Percussion and Back Vocals
Fares Benlechehb  Tenor Sax and Percussion
Halim Roots  Drums
Mehdi ‘lilg’ Benzerga  Keys with computer/sampler and Back Vocals

“Reggae music is the music of revolution,” exclaims vocalist and songwriter Sadek Bouzinou of Democratoz. And as Sadek sings in his resonant, passionate voice over rock-solid beats and urges the audience to move and join him, it’s easy to get swept up by this seven-piece Algerian band.

For Democratoz, revolution starts with music itself. Three years after a 19-year State of Emergency was lifted, Algeria is in the middle of a period of musical experimentation, fueled by its Maghreb roots and an urge to reconnect to the wider world. The band mashes up local gnawa and diwan music and instruments, reggae’s thrumming pulse and rock’s recurring licks. Rolling drums and modal reeds, skin-covered guimbri and chiming percussion hint at the band’s origins, even when the group leans confidently into dubbed-out jams, vocal hooks, and lyrics that speak truth to power.  

All of this mixing comes naturally to Democratoz, who hail from Oran, the cosmopolitan city on Algeria’s Mediterranean coast known as the cradle of North Africa’s best-known sound, rai (“opinion” in Arabic). From its outskirt origins in the early 1900s, to its 1980s jump from cabarets into the international limelight, and to its current resurgence, it has maintained its primacy as a cacophonous voice of the people. Among rai’s mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, French, and other influences, its sound owes some of its heady punch to reggae. “Our city has a history that’s connected to reggae,” explains Sadek. “Rai has roots in reggae, mixed with folk music. Even if they don’t know that rai came from reggae, people here get reggae; they love the bass and the drums.”

American audiences will hear the connection firsthand when Democratoz debuts in the U.S. in 2016 as part of Center StageSM, an exchange program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts. From July-December, Center Stage will bring five ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania to the U.S. for month-long tours. Residencies will include performances, workshops, discussions, people-to-people exchanges, and community gatherings. Keep up with Center Stage on Facebook and on Twitter and at www.centerstageUS.org.

The groove is the force encouraging fans to pack the floor, the trigger for Democratoz’s own creativity. When Sadek began to write original songs, they always seemed to have reggae feel to them. He had sung over tracks and beats created by Halim (Democratoz’ drummer) and recorded and produced by LilG, but never had his own group. The two friends ran into guitarist Popay via mutual acquaintances in their neighborhood. The three began to jam together, playing Bob Marley covers. Eventually, they met the rest of the band’s members at an evening dedicated to reggae. They clicked, began to create their own songs, and were soon packing festivals.

The band has a restless, joyful energy, a flair for catchy melodies that pick up where bands like Alpha Blondy, in their critical Afrocentric funkiness, and more lyrical masters of the reggae ballad like Rocky Dawuni, leave off. Yet they have their own rhythmic sense that knocks Oran feel into the international music.

Within a song, the rhythm at reggae’s core often eases into an Algerian pulse, only to leap back again into bouncing bass and bursts of funky keys. “Sometimes the rhythm is very Algerian,” says guitarist Popay. “We do a break and play in reggae rhythm, and then do a break and go back into the Algerian rhythm.”

The colloquial Arabic lyrics hook into reggae’s other revolutionary side. Its messages of resistance, pride, and dissent that have made music resonate across North Africa and the Middle East. 

Democratoz are outspoken, if creative, in taking on some of the ongoing struggles their generation face. “What influences us most is current politics and society. Our name even talks about it. Popay remarks, “Most of our songs speak about these issues, using irony and metaphors.”

“We talk about rebellious youth, young people who do drugs, migrants who risk their lives hoping to find something better across the sea. We try to encourage them to find better opportunities, give them hope and make them better citizens.”

“But we really want people to be happy when they hear us,” Sadek adds. “We want to make them dance.”

About Center Stage

Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) invites performing artists from select countries overseas to the United States to perform and conduct engagement activities.

Now in its third edition, five acclaimed contemporary music and theater ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania will travel to the U.S. between July and November, 2016; two bands from Pakistan will tour in the spring of 2017. Each group undertakes independent, month-long tours around the country to perform, interact, begin meaningful dialogues with Americans, and share these experiences with friends and fans at home. Center Stage artists perform and engage with audiences onstage and online providing positive and popular avenues of engagement to build mutual understanding through shared culture and values.

Each tour includes a range of community engagement activities, such as performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, and community gatherings.  To date, 17 ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Vietnam have toured the United States, focusing on interactive engagements in diverse cities and towns across the country.

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

press 

audio clips

downloadable photos, billing & crediting information

Minimum Billing
Democratoz
On tour as part of Center Stage

Credit Info
The following credit is required on the title page in all printed performance programs. We appreciate its use wherever else it's practical: brochures, posters, ensemble-only promotional materials, press releases, advertisements, etc:

The presentation of (name of ensemble] is part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

Center Stage logo placement is greatly appreciated. On web-based materials, please link from the Center Stage logo or written name to www.centerstageUS.org.

Download a zipped folder with high resolution promotional photos and color and black and white versions of the Center Stage logo here.