She was born in Tiaret, a largely bedouin town. She became blind as a result of smallpox when two years old, and studied at a school for the blind in Algiers, until her mother encouraged her to take up music. She studied with Saoud l'Oranais, who gave her the nickname Reinette l'Oranaise ("Queenie from Oran") From him she learned to play several instruments, and learned a great many traditional songs in the Arab-Andalus and Raï styles. They moved to Paris in 1938, but at his suggestion she soon returned to Algeria. There she joined the orchestra of Meriem Fekkai, until Algerian independence ended her career - she had been opposed to independence. Unable to find work in her home country, she returned to France, playing in restaurants and private parties for the North African Jewish community in Paris.
In the 1980s the increased interest in "World Music" brought her to the media's attention, and she was once again able to perform to large audiences.
Her recording of the song "Qum Tara" was used in the film A la Place du Couer (1998)