The Algerian legendary raï music star, Cheikha Rimitti, passed away on May 15 in Paris, 83 years old
Cheikha Rimitti has a 60-year track record in Algeria as an outlaw for singing songs openly encouraging women to have and enjoy sex, with lyrics so plain-talk frank they’d still send the self-appointed guardians of the U.S. moral order running for cover.
Cheikha Rimitti (born Saadia) became a cult figure in Algeria’s colonial era. In the 1940s she thrilled half the French-Algerian city of Oran and outraged the other half with her outspoken songs about sex or alcohol. In 1954 she created a sensation with a song called ‘Charrag Gataa’ that was heard as an attack on the virtue of female virginity. She also sang about independence, drinking, poverty and expatriates’ homesickness.
She was banned from the tv and radio after independence, and banned from performing as well When Algerian fundamentalists declared open season on raï musicians in the late 1980s, she had to move to France where she found a new audience.
In 2000, her album ‘Nouar’ was both banned in Algeria and No 1 on the European World Music Chart. Cheikha Rimitti continued performing until the end. Two days before she died, she was rapturously received by an audience of 4,500 at the Zénith in Paris.
Morocco Times– 17 May 2006:
‘Cheikha Rimitti – Rai diva dies’