From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Raï (Arabic: رأي) is a form of folk music, originated in Oran, Algeria from Bedouin shepherds, mixed with Spanish, French, African and Arabic musical forms, which dates back to the 1930s and has been primarily evolved by women in the culture. The word raï is Arabic for “opinion.”
Singers of raï are called cheb (young) as opposed to sheikh (old) the name given to Chaabi music singers; the tradition arose in cities like Oran and elsewhere in Tlemcen, primarily among the poor. The word raï means literally opinion but is colloquially used as an interjection along the lines of oh, yeah! Traditionally sung by men, at the turn of the 20th century, female singers became common.