United Nations adds reggae music to its list of international cultural treasures to be preserved

The United Nations on Thursday added reggae music, born in the 1960s and made famous by artists like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, to its list of “intangible heritage” for the world to treasure. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added the genre to its list of global cultural treasures deemed worthy of protection and promotion.

According to the UN, reggae’s contributions to international discussions on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity “underscore the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual”. “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,” it said.

The announcement came at a gathering of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Mauritius, which is meeting till December 1. The protected list started in 2008.

The other items added to the list of intangible heritage include Chidaoba, an ancient form of martial art practised by men in Georgia; hurling, an Irish field game; Japan’s Raiho-shin, the ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes; Jordan’s As-Samer, which consists mainly of dancing and singing on special occasions; and the traditional spring festive rites of horse breeders in Kazakhstan.

In a historic joint bid, both North and South Korea applied together to include traditional Korean wrestling known as ssirum or ssireum to the list.

Jamaica applied for reggae’s inclusion this year, AFP reported. “Reggae is uniquely Jamaican,” said the country’s Culture Minister Olivia Grange before the vote. “It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world.”

The Gaelic Athletic Association, which manages hurling in Ireland, welcomed the honour.

“There are few things in Irish life that can lay a claim to the same sort of history and heritage and tradition as hurling,” said Gaelic Athletic Association Director General Tom Ryan before the vote. “UNESCO status is still a very welcome and significant development because it is yet more proof of the power of hurling and its ability to win people over to the skill and drama and colour of the game.”

Among the Indian items on the list are Ramlila, recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the Himalayan region, Chhau dance from eastern India, yoga, and the Kumbh Mela.