The world is abuzz about UNESCO’s recent overwhelming endorsement of reggae’s impact on the world.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization added the genre among the world’s protected “intangible cultural heritage” treasures during its 13th session held in the Republic of Mauritius recently.
A Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage met on Nov. 26 for a five-day gathering and by the third day it was decided that going forward reggae would be indelibly and irrevocably placed among the world’s treasures.
Worthy of protection and promotion, reggae is among 300 unique global treasure designated by the United Nations as “intangible.”
Every year UNESCO adds new distinguishing cultural treasures and this year Jamaica along with 40 countries submitted proposals for consideration.
For the first time, Jamaica was named to the committee and was represented by Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, sports and entertainment.
In making a recommendation to add reggae to a list of unique national “intangible cultural heritage” throughout the world she presented the origin of the genre and the humility of the downtrodden musicians who toiled to promote it. She particularly acknowledged the influence Rastafarians have made in advancing and sustaining the genre.
“A special tribute must be made to the Rastafari community which has been recognized globally as the chief practitioners who have contributed, in a major way, to the evolution of reggae.
They carried the messages of peace, hope, love and one-ness that have made reggae loved and ‘RASpected’ world-wide.”
In explaining the hard-driving beat from the Caribbean she emphasized that: “As a genre, reggae music reflects the influences of Kumina chants and songs, revival tambourines and hymns, and the drumming and chanting of Rastafarians. The heavy bass-line which is associated with the strains of reggae, have strong Rastafarian influences. Indeed, artistes such as Count
Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, who emerged on Jamaica’s music scene in the mid to late 1950s are to be acknowledged and recognized for their contribution to reggae’s unique sound and how it has evolved.
While in the beginning reggae was the voice of the marginalized, the music is now played and embraced by a wide cross-section of genders, ethnic and religious groups, and the recognition of its contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamism of the musical form.
The power of reggae could clearly be seen when Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’
turned the entire meeting of UNESCO’s Inter Governmental Committee into a song-and-dance party. The basic social functions of the music – as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice — have not changed, and the music continues to act as a voice for all.
Jamaica can be truly proud that it has given to the world many reggae icons including Robert Nesta Marley, created a musical genre that has been inscribed to UNESCO’s Representative List of Humanity and which has penetrated all corners of the world and a new religion in the form of Rastafari.”
Other cultural traditions proposed included Dominican meringue, Slovakian bagpipe music and Vietnamese xoan singing.
Among the countries aspiring for permanent placements — Egypt and Ireland also vied to promote and preserve their unique cultural legacies.
The Bahamas proposed their straw craft proficiency as worthy of consideration.
Twenty out of 23 countries spoke on behalf of securing reggae’s status.
In the end jubilation erupted with Jamaica and reggae gaining new profile and global security.
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