Cheikha Rimitti

Singer

Actress Charlotte McGinnis died May 24 of cancer in Los Angeles. She was 53.

McGinnis was a member of the Groundlings and performed in comedy shows with Paul Reubens before he became known as Pee Wee Herman, appearing several times with him on “The Gong Show.”

Her film credits include “Billy Jack Goes to Washington,” “Hardcore” and “Reform School Girls.” She was the wardrobe supervisor on the film “Down on Us.”

McGinnis also appeared in L.A. theater productions such as “The Island” and performed in musicvideos.

She is survived by her husband, producer/director Howard Woffinden, and a daughter.

Cheikha Rimitti

Algerian singer Cheikha Rimitti, known as the “mother of rai,” the Algerian music of dissent, died of a heart attack May 15 in Paris. She was 83.

Rimitti, who was still performing concerts in Europe, last month released a new recording, “N’ta Goudami” (Face Me).

Born Saadia Bediaf near Sidi Bel Abbes in Algeria, Rimitti was orphaned at an early age and struggled for daily existence. When she sang at weddings and parties as a youth, “People gave me food to eat.”

“Misery was like a school for me,” Rimitti said in a 2001 interview with Afropop Worldwide, a radio program and Web site dedicated to African pop music. “It taught me my trade.”

At 20, Rimitti joined a group of musicians who sang at religious festivals, weddings, births and other rites.

Cheikha is a title given to female rai singers, who in the early days of rai were regarded as outcasts and often took on nicknames or stage names.

In Arabic the word rai means “opinion” or “way of seeing.” In its early form, the music was rooted in the concerns of everyday people — the joys, the pains, the unspeakable. It was dance music, sung in the language of the streets.

Nourredine Gafaiti, Rimitti’s most recent producer, called the music “as happy as funk” and “as deep as the blues.” It is both hopeful and melancholy, Gafaiti said in a biography of Rimitti posted on the singer’s official website.

Algeria was a colony of France when Rimitti began singing. Her first recorded hit, “Charrak Gatta” (Tear, Lacerate), was released in 1954, the year the Algerian war of independence began.

The song has been described as an attack on the virtue of virginity and an invitation for women in the Muslim nation to rethink their views on morality.

In the 1960s the new government banned Rimitti, who was considered immoral, and other rai artists from performing on the radio, relegating the music to private parties and black-market cassette tapes.

In 1978, she moved to France. Years later, rai would experience renewed popularity and Rimitti complained that younger artists took her songs and “exploited them without giving me my due.”

In 1994 Rimitti collaborated with Flea, bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Robert Fripp on the album “Sidi Mansour.” The musicians recorded in Los Angeles, while Rimitti recorded vocals in Paris. The collaboration, she later said, opened the door to realizing her long-held dream of performing in the United States.

By the time Rimitti performed in the U.S. in 2001, she was 78, but she was still vibrant and innovating. The next year she performed at California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles as part of a Grand Performances lineup of world music artists.

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