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Cheikha Remitti
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Easily the best-known and most colorful rai singer in the world, Cheikha Remitti was born Saadia in the small town of Relizane in Oran. She was orphaned at an early age and as a young woman, made her daily bread by working as a dancer with a group of cheiks who performed rural music in the streets of Oran. She subsequently began to sing, performing husky and sensuous songs about the hard living and hard loving of the Algerian poor. Such songs were not new; indeed, they were a traditional feature of Algerian women's private wedding celebrations, but Remitti was one of the first to make the songs public and commercially viable, eschewing all the protocols of decency in singing of physical passion and lust. At first by word of mouth, Remitti's fame began to spread; she gained her name after buying her fans round after round of drinks to the call of "remettez" (fill them up) in a bar she happened upon during a rain storm. Remitti recorded her first records in 1936 and had to suffer criticism from the more orthodox of Muslims as well as the colonial French rulers and later from the Marxist government of post-Independence Algeria, although she had sung in support of the latter during their long struggle for national self-determination. Nevertheless, Remitti remained popular during her long years of active performing and recording. She enjoyed a revival of interest in the 1990s. Leon Jackson

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