Artist News

Reggae added to UN’s protected cultural heritage list

By | Published on Friday 30 November 2018

Bob Marley

The UN has added reggae to its list of protected cultural heritage, alongside the Irish field sport of hurling, Swiss avalanche management and more.

Confirming reggae’s addition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization’s Representative List Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage Of Humanity, the group said in a statement: “While in its embryonic state reggae music was the voice of the marginalised, 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”, it continues. “Students are taught how to play the music in schools from early childhood to the tertiary level, and reggae festivals and concerts such as Reggae Sumfest and Reggae Salute provide annual outlets, as well as an opportunity for understudy and transmission for upcoming artists, musicians and other practitioners”.

The aim of including items on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list – like its counterpart the World Heritage list – is to improve the protection afforded to the listed cultural activities and boost awareness of their significance. In that spirit, I’ll tell you now, if you’ve never watched a hurling match then you’re really missing out.

It was announced last month that the Jamaican government had submitted reggae for consideration to be added to the list. The country’s Minister of Sports, Culture, Entertainment And Gender Affairs, Olivia Grange, said that it would be a “major achievement” if the application was successful.

Now welcoming the decision – which had initially been recommended by the evaluating panel to be deferred for two years – she added: “It shows the popularity of reggae music across the world and the captivating influence of the Jamaican art form”.

She added that reggae’s listing would also be beneficial for the lesser known of UNESCO’s heritage lists, saying: “Jamaicans have long recognised that reggae music means so much to so many across the world. This inscription will invariably bring even more visibility to UNESCO’S Representative List Of The Intangible Cultural Heritage Of Humanity and intangible cultural heritage as a whole, and it demonstrates reggae’s global impact”.

Reggae is actually Jamaica’s second addition to the intangible culture list. The Maroon heritage of Moore Town in Eastern Jamaica was added in 2008.