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Review by Maria Ezzitouni

The Algerian group Democratoz has a unique sound combining reggae beats, North African traditional instruments (karkabou - castanets, gallal - clay drum, jembe, traditional guitars and bendir) and touches of African gnawa, jazz as well as rock. The group started out on YouTube and has been known by the Algerian audience for quite some time. Apart from a U.S tour in 2016 this is their international debut. Their strength lies in mixing influences of various traditional and modern music genres, yet managing to create their very own sound.

The album is original and intriguing, blending the raw talent with the professionalism of a record company. All songs are written by the singer and songwriter, Sadek Bouzinou and are in colloquial Arabic.

Their texts which are often about life, hope and difficulties as well as politics will of course add another dimension for the ones who speak the language. All songs may not appeal to everyone, but the album has something for everybody and is easy to listen to. Their repetitive refrains and reggae influences are especially strong on "Khrana Melboulitik" and "Pollution," although the latter one also features electronic vibes.

Listen "Ah ya Mamma"

The saxophone and trumpet solos in "Ah ya Mamma" are a nice touch, as well as the unconventional ending with an electric guitar riff. Here the influences of rai are also particularly apparent. Not surprising, as the members of the group are born and bred in Oran, the capital of rai and grew up listening to the greats; Cheb Khaled, Cheb Hasni and Cheb Mami. "Impossible" is another track with rai influences.

Listen "Dounia"
Listen "Brom Brom"

"Brom Brom" starts off as a clear reggae track but surprises the listener with influences of jazz as it goes on. If most of the tracks are energetic and invites you to dance, "Dounia" and "Mazel" offer a more calm and relaxing sound. "Dounia" could have been an old folk tune, the rhythms takes the listener to the deepest Sahara but also touches on an American western vibe.

Listen "Mazel"

The introduction in "Mazel" is captivating and the vocals go beautifully with the percussions. In "Mahbous" the acoustic guitar and the strong, varied vocals take center stage and ends with a harmonica solo.

Democratoz are true to their roots and the traditional Algerian instruments but pushes the boundaries on where and how to use them, and are not afraid of change and innovation. The album deserves a few times of listening before it reaches its full potential. I feel as if I am peeling off layer upon layer to get to the core. - Maria Ezzitouni

Find the band online.

Read Maria's 2016 RootsWorld interview with Sadek Bouzinou.

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