UNESCO adds reggae music to world cultural heritage list

Reggae emerged in the late 1960s in Jamaica and has often been presented as the music of the oppressed, with lyrics dealing with socio-political issues, imprisonment and inequality.

Julian Marley, son of the late reggae icon Bob Marley, performs during a concert celebrating his father’s 69th birthday at the National Stadium in Kingston February 7, 2014. (Reuters)

Reggae music, whose quiet, melodious grooves have gained international acclaim thanks to artists like Bob Marley, earned a place on the United Nations list of world cultural treasures on Thursday.

UNESCO, the cultural and scientific agency of the world body, has added the genre originating in Jamaica to its collection of “intangible cultural heritage” deemed worthy of protection and promotion.

World TRTit is Philippe Owira reports.

Reggae music‘s “contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as simultaneously cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual”, said UNESCO.

The musical style has joined a list of cultural traditions that includes riding from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a Mongolian camel ritual and Czech puppetry, and more than 300 other traditional practices ranging from boat building, pilgrimages and cooking.

Reggae emerged in the late 1960s from the Jamaican ska and rocksteady genres, also drawing influence from American jazz and blues.

The style quickly became popular in the United States as well as in Britain, where many Jamaican immigrants had settled in the years following World War II.

It has often been presented as music of the oppressed, with lyrics dealing with socio-political issues, imprisonment and inequality.

Reggae has also become associated with Rastafarianism, which deified former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and promoted the sacramental use of ganja or marijuana.

The 1968 single “Do the Reggay” by Toots and the Maytals was the first popular song to use the name, and Marley and his band the Wailers produced classic hits such as “No Woman, No Cry” and “Stir It Up”.

Jamaica applied for reggae to be on the list this year at a UN agency meeting in Mauritius, where 40 proposals were under consideration.

“Reggae is uniquely Jamaican,” Olivia Grange, the Caribbean island nation’s culture minister, said ahead of the vote.

“It’s music we’ve created that has penetrated every corner of the world.”

Source: AFP

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