What Does Raï Mean? Raï (pronounced "rye") literally means "a way of seeing," "an opinion," "a point of view," "advice," but also "an aim," "a plan" and even "a thought," "a judgment," "a will."
In Orania it is widely said that in the past people went to a shikh, a poet of malhun, to ask for his raï, his advice, expressed as poetry. Many, even raï musicians and singers, will say today that this is the real raï. But the word also appears as a stopgap expression in a number of songs of a more popular kind, as one finds "aman, aman" in Turkish songs, "ya lil, ya lil" in Egyptian songs, and "dan dani" in the poetry of the shikhs (all of these expressions are also found in raï), or the "oh no, oh no" or "yeah, yeah" of rock and blues lyrics. Raï's rhythmic and tonal universe originates from western Algeria, with its center of gravity lying between Relizane, Saida, Sidi Bel Abbès, Oujda (in Morocco), and Oran. The emergence of raï is generally associated with the migration into the cities of western Algeria, starting with the world depression in the 1930s. Other sources, however, mention elements which are associated with the raï music of today, such as the "repetitive" musical form, improper forms of expression, women entertaining men, and games of competition, indicating that raï as a genre goes much further back in history. One important element in raï has been that it is danceable, with simple but characteristic lyrics. It also uses the local dialect, with noticeable influences from Spanish, French, literary Arabic, rural, and city dialects. This has been true of popular local poetry since the middle of the nineteenth century. Another important element in raï is the incorporation of Western instruments into a local repertoire. This is not a new thing either, since it has been reported throughout this century
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