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.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Haiti – After the Earthquake - Vulnerable populations need protection

Haiti is no longer in the news, but the earthquake that devastated the country, killing more than 100,000 people and making more than million homeless, is obviously going to have long-term consequences. One major consequence is the resurgence of violence and the government, severely weakened by the earthquake, is powerless to ensure the rule of law.

The country’s main prison, the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, was destroyed in the quake and violent criminals escaped. They are now trying to regain control of the most deprived and vulnerable communities, according to Amnesty International. In response, some community members have formed vigilantes to protect themselves, and AI received reports of lynching and killing of looters. There are also reports of looters being shot by the police.

But the most vulnerable people in a situation of spiraling violence are women and children, AI warns. With families separated and schools destroyed, thousands of children need protection from trafficking and irregular adoption. Women, too, are vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers, as well as increased risk of sexual violence.

Protection of human rights should be at the core of relief and reconstruction efforts, the organization urges.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Save the BBC - Avaaz' petition

After attacks by the Murdoch media empire, the BBC is considering sweeping cuts, cutting its website in half and dropping TV and radio stations.

According to a story in the Times, the proposal is a bid to "shrink" in order to "appease the BBC's rivals."

The BBC isn't perfect, but the people pushing for these cuts want to destroy it, not to improve it. Today's cuts are proposed in a "strategic review" written by John Tate -- co-author of the Conservative Party's manifesto, and now a BBC executive. If the goal is to reduce competition to corporate media outfits, this may just be the beginning.

Murdoch -- the global media magnate -- has long seen the BBC as his biggest rival, and his media outlets have assaulted the Labor government. Now, with the recession hurting profits and a UK election coming soon, he and his allies are on the attack.

The BBC is a global treasure. We need greater investment in quality and originality by the BBC, not death by a thousand cuts.

Public outcry has prevented BBC cuts before, now we can save it again! Sign the petition and pass it along -- let's get to 100,000 signatures before we deliver it to the BBC Trust later this week, so they know the UK, and the world, want the Beeb to stand strong. Sign and spread the word to everyone