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Cheikha Remitti (8 mai 1923 - ) est une chanteuse de raï, qui enflamme l’Algérie depuis 1954. --http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheikha_Remitti [Nov 2005]
IntroEasily 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.
Cheikha Remitti is the 77-year-old godmama of all the rai chebs and chabas, and Nouar has been banned in Algeria. Predictably banned, since Remitti has a 60-year track record there 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. It’s hard to conceive of how they must hit home in an Islamic society, though Remitti did have to move to France when Algerian fundamentalists declared open season on rai musicians in the late ’80s. There’s nothing obviously risqué in the brief translations of the songs on Nouar. “Others fall in love with the handsome guy, I do with the experienced one” ain’t that provocative, but it does give some idea of Remitti’s ongoing commitment to having at it with the immediate object of her desire.
Most of Remitti’s half-dozen albums since her re-emergence 15 years ago haven’t strayed from framing her voice with throbbing Magrebhi hand percussion and the breathy wooden tones of the ney flute. The one anomaly is 1994’s Sidi Mansour, a “record Remitti’s voice and basic percussion tracks in Paris and ship ’em to Geza X in L.A. to flesh out in a mélange of Frippertronics, Flea funk-bass pops and East Bay Ray punk/metal chords” job. It worked because Remitti’s coarse, character-laden vocals were never dominated by the sonic maelstrom. Nouar expands and adorns her customary spare arrangements in more low-key ways. Tasteful keyboards supply melodies and muted solos; the bass underpinnings are simple but firm; occasional accordion and acoustic guitar add different colors to the mix. Melismatic wails spice “Saida,” and three songs feature the tart, melancholy trumpet of Bellemou Messaoud, a key figure who midwifed the transition of rai generations from Remitti to Khaled.
Nouar doesn’t have the international pop savvy of Khaled, the rock moves of Rachid Taha, modern dance-floor grooves à la the current crop of chebs/chabas or explosive big-bang climaxes. What Nouar has is the indomitable vocal presence of Remitti — the voice of a female elder who projects total command, authority and strength, conveying a message of “No apologies needed for who I am or what I want” that crosses any language barrier. Now, can you imagine your 77-year-old grandmama being banned for being an enemy of the moral rectitude of the people? Don’t you like the idea? (Nouar is distributed in the U.S. by Stern’s Music, 71 Warren St., New York, NY 10007-3501; 212-964-5455; email@example.com) (Don Snowden)
2002, Sep 05; 22:39:
Nouar - Cheikha Rimitti [1 CD, Amazon US]
The original queen of Algerian rai music is also one of the great survivors in all of Afropop, still on stage and in the studio in her 70s.
By the 1930s, the Berber, Bedouin and Andalusian elements that would ultimately lead to rai music had coalesced in a style called wahrani. Wahrani was championed by cheikhas--female singers--in the bars of Algeria's "Little Paris," the coastal city of Oran. Cheikhas voiced the complaints of working class people in French colonial Algeria, upsetting officials. They also sang openly about sex, upsetting conservative mujahedin rebels.
Today, though over 75 years old, Rimitti continues to record.
Ghir al Baroud - Cheikha Rimitti [1 CD, Amazon US]
Originally released in 1989, this CD contains the wonderful 'C'est fini, j'en ai marre' track
C'est fini, j'en ai marre El dzair Ghir el baroud Hya b'ghate sahra Rani alla m'rida El alia n'batou ahna
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