Washington Post, Reggae rockers Democratoz bring their own redemption songs to D.C.

Washington Post, Reggae rockers Democratoz bring their own redemption songs to D.C.

Jul 14, 2016

Democratoz is touring the U.S. as part of the State Department’s Center Stage program.
 

Shows: Tuesday at Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Show starts at 6 p.m. 202-467-4600. kennedy-center.org. Free.
July 21 at Bossa Bistro. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. 202-667-0088.bossadc.com. $10.

In Oran, Algeria’s most cosmopolitan city and home of the band Democratoz, local folk music blended with Western rock to yield rai. The style, whose name means “opinion” in Arabic, is known for social commentary. As the group’s name suggests, Democratoz is as politically engaged as any of rai’s more veteran acts, but it also offers rousing melodies and exuberant beats.

After the lifting of the country’s 19-year state of emergency in 2011, the band began to draw crowds with such rollicking multilingual anthems as “Je Suis Algérien (I am Algerian).” If such songs’ mix of protest and affirmation recalls Bob Marley, that’s by design. Marley was the initial inspiration for the band, which alternates reggae’s funky gait with traditional Maghreb rhythms.

During Algeria’s turbulent 1980s, many rai stars fled to Europe. But Democratoz frontman Sadek Bouzinou and his cohorts are rooted in their country and represent its new era. They’ve even accepted roles as cultural ambassadors: Their U.S. tour is sponsored by the State Department’s Center Stage program. The band isn’t coming here just to sing about change in its own land, though. Like Marley, Democratoz has a global message and a universal groove.