Reggae music added to UNESCO Cultural Heritage List

UNESCO, the cultural agency of the United Nations, annually adds new entries to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meeting on the island of Mauritius (from 26 November to 1 December), inscribed six elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In addition to Jamaican reggae music, the list includes: an Irish hurling, Georgian wrestling, and Jordanian, Kazakh and Japanese rituals.

“While in its embryonic state Reggae music was the voice of the marginalized, the music is now played and embraced by a wide cross-section of society, including various genders, ethnic and religious groups. Its contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual. The basic social functions of the music – as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God – have not changed, and the music continues to act as a voice for all” – said UNESCO.

Speaking after the decision, Jamaican Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport Minister Olivia Grange said: “Reggae is uniquely Jamaican. It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world.”

Jamaica applied for recognition of its musical tradition at a meeting of the UN agency in Mauritius this year, where 40 proposals were under consideration.

Unesco’s list began in 2008, following an international convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. It defines this as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage”.

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