Haitian folk music legend Cornelia “TiCorn” Schütt tells our guest author Noah Augustin about the joy of finding fans online and her life since she topped music charts decades ago.
By Noah Augustin
HAMBURG, Germany — Folk musician Cornelia “TiCorn” Schütt, one of the most famous Haitian singer-songwriters of her time, has fallen out of sight to many of her. But unbeknownst to her older listeners, she has quietly continued to share her music, finding new audiences – across borders and platforms. Namely, via social media.
“I never truly felt an end to a “peak” in my career, it just continues to flow,” said the songwriter, who is celebrating her 69th birthday Aug. 11. “Sometimes, it was more visible and outgoing. Sometimes, more of a creative inner process.”
Raised in Cap-Haitien by German parents, whose family had lived in Haiti since 1832, Schütt grew up surrounded by traditional Haitian music from Twoubadou to Rara.
In February 1979, after decades of musical training in Haiti, Germany and France, TiCorn released a debut album, “Haïti,” that propelled her to stardom. The album featured songs “Sous le ciel d’Haïti” and “Carénage” – both of which became Haitian folk classics. Later albums brought additional hits such as “Colibri” and “La m’ap rete” along with legions of fans who enjoyed her mix of popular rhythms and timeless melodies .
Over her more than 40 year career TiCorn has performed across the globe with a roster of Haitian musicians, including Marcel O. Gilles, Beethova Obas, Jean Claude Martineau, Henry Celestin, Robert Martino, the Widmaier family, Carole Démesmin, Yole and Ansy Dérose, Amos Coulanges and Atissou Adjabel.
Schütt last performed live in March 2020 with BélO in Fort Lauderdale, just before in-person events shut down due to the pandemic. Afterwards, her activities shifted primarily onto the internet.
Now, the once globetrotting songstress lives in Hamburg with her French husband Jean Louis-Richard. From this historical city, the musician dedicates much of her time to running her website, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube channel “TiCornMusic” where she uploads videos of her work, both old and new.
Through her online presence, Schütt has felt a rise in appreciation for her music, especially from younger Haitians looking to explore their heritage.
‘Your music brings tears to my heart. Thank you TiCorn, for allowing me to know what my country was like through your songs,” one fan, Sherly Belony, wrote last year in the comment sections of TiCorn’s Youtube channel.
‘With everything going on in our country, from the earthquake to gangs, this music really gives me hope! I’m sad that I wasn’t around to experience you here in Haiti but hopefully one day,’ wrote another user, Noemie Hillary Rivette, in Creole.
“TiCorn is unique and original”, renowned musician Beethova Obas recently told the Haitian Times. “Through her lyrics, she describes our culture and our values. She is a heritage for all Haitian music.”
In May, on Haitian Flag Day, Haiti’s embassy in Berlin gifted Schütt with a plaque of honor for her work in giving “Haitian music an international audience.”
“It feels as if now I’m more popular than ever!”, the chanteuse exclaimed from her Hamburg apartment in a recent Tuesday interview.
“In the 80s the cultural landscape was very different… Only in concerts and events did I get to interact with the public, and even then it was only ever about 500 people at a time,” Schütt recalls. “Now, through social media, my songs are available to a much broader audience and so, in a way, have even gained in popularity.”
When Schütt isn’t composing music, practicing her guitar or editing videos, she runs a business. For the last 20 years, together with her husband, she has been active in the wellness industry through the import and distribution of products for Japanese company Shoyeido, a 300-year-old traditional incense manufacturer.
Amidst the pandemic, political unrest and her numerous occupations Schütt hasn’t had the chance to visit her beloved homeland.
Nevertheless she keeps in daily touch with her friends, brother Broder and sisters, Anne-Caroline and Laetitia, who still live in Cap-Haïtien.
As she puts it, “A part of me is still in Haiti everyday.”
She also tries to keep up with the modern musical happenings of the country.
“I love seeing Haitian artists, especially women like Mélissa Laveaux, Moonlight Benjamin and Malou Beauvoir, successfully representing “mizik rasin” at performances worldwide,” Schütt said contentedly.
“Right now, my goal is to continue sharing my music with the younger generation both online and through my songbook which is being distributed to schools around Haiti by the Fondation Odette Roy Fombrun (a Haitian non-profit promoting youth education in the country). Of course there are also more performances in the planning!”
In spite of the immense popularity of genres such as Raboday and Konpa Gouyad in recent years, Schütt still maintains that traditional music like her’s, will always be of importance in Haiti.
“Culture is constantly evolving,” Schütt says. “But from my point of view, traditional folk is and will remain at the heart of Haitian culture. It’s that rich music, with its powerful images, that I will always continue to serve.”