Monday, 22 March 2010

Corneille - Rwandan singer exorcises the past through music

A friend sent me this beautiful song by Corneille or Cornelius Nyungura, a singer born in Germany to Rwandan parents, and now a Canadian citizen, who sings in French and English. His work is greatly influenced by American funk and soul music, but he also blends in jazz and African rhythms. He is well known in France, Canada and Africa, but now that he has released his first English-language album, The Birth Of Cornelius ( 2007), he is starting to be noticed in America as well.

In "Reposez en paix", a moving song from a previous album, he tells his mother, killed in the Rwanda genocide, that she can “rest in peace, ” as he is now getting on with his life and doing well. The song is in French.

Corneille was born in Freiburg, Germany where his parents were studying, though he spent most of his childhood in Rwanda. He discovered his passion for music in 1993 and joined an R&B group, who won the Découverte 1993 competition. This also introduced him to songwriting and musical composition.

However, his life changed after the genocide in 1994. His father, Émile Nyungura, was a leader of the political party (PSD); as a result, his parents (a Hutu and a Tutsi) and some of his relatives were killed in the massacre. Corneille fled through the DRC to Germany, where some of his parents' friends took him in. He spent the decade following the genocide in denial unable to face his past, but later used music to channel the feelings and emotions he had been repressing all along. Corneille is working with the Canadian Red Cross to raise awareness of children who are victims of war. He dreams of returning to Rwanda to do a reconciliation concert.

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