Cheikha Rimitti was a pioneering female raï singer in Algeria and beyond. She grew up in poverty before joining a song & dance troupe in the late '30s. She broke custom in the early '40s by singing about sex and booze in a deeply taboo environment in Algeria, using filthy slang and a deeper ("unfemale"?) voice in the process.
In 1954 she encouraged young women to lose their virginity, causing a major scandal ("Charrak Gattà", a record still suppressed to this day). This found her banned in her homeland and she took to working in France and elsewhere, staying largely out of Algeria. Her popularity increased in her homeland and beyond when up-and-coming young Algerian raï stars paid tribute to her, including Khaled and Rachid Taha.
She collaborated with Flea and Robert Fripp in '94 on a groundbreaking electro-raï album (Sidi Mansour, as well as its companion EP Cheikha) and has been called the Grandmother of Algerian raï. She spent her lifetime illiterate, yet she composed over 200 songs and has nearly 800 albums.