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Index / Art and Culture /
Arabic: ra'yy

Rai: Album cover 2002, Cheb Bilal: Sidi Sidi

Music examples
Chaba Fadela: Rai Rayi (Live, 1992)
Cheb Bilal: Rak Mrid 2002
Prominent performers
Cheikha Rimitti
Cheb Mami

All articles include music examples.

Music style mixing modern, western rhythms and technology with a traditional music line.
Raï grew out of northwestern Algeria, and has reached all corners of the world. The most prominent performers are now living abroad, mainly in France. The Arabic word ra'yy is the common word for 'opinion, view, notion'.
The Raï has been a style that have provoked both the Algerian governments, which banned all Raï from being played in radio up until 1985, and also among militant Islamists which assassinated the performer Cheb Hasni during the civil unrest in the country.
Raï music had its centre in Oran, and its origins were older religious traditions close to Sufism and female cult around the zawiyyas. Even if a clear majority of today's performers of Raï are men, Raï is noted for the strong position of its female performers. Men that started to perform this type of music, often did it among women, but they added elements to it even the main subject remained unchanged: problems in the everyday life.
When the music spread around Algeria in the 1960's it was very much because of its danceability. An important aid to the distribution were music cassettes. The style was a catchy mixture of medieval melody lines and Western rhythms. There was also a mixture of both traditional and modern instruments. And the lyrics covered the whole range of subjects from religion to politics.
More than any other form of Arab music, Raï has been the caught on world attention, and performers like Khaled (formerly Cheb Khaled) and Cheb Mami are international stars, with Europe and America as their most important markets.

By Tore Kjeilen