Jamaica got a Christmas gift early Thursday, as UNESCO, the United Nation’s cultural and scientific agency, added reggae to its list of global cultural treasures.
Meeting in Mauritius until December 1st, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, inscribed six elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Reggae’s inclusion to UNESCO’s collection of “intangible cultural heritage” means that it now has protected status, joining a list of more 300 other cultural traditions like the Spanish art-form flamenco, Mongolian knuckle-bone shooting, and yoga in India.
Reggae music’s “functions as a vehicle of social commentary, as a cathartic experience, and means of praising God remain unchanged, and the music continues to provide a voice for all,” UNESCO said.
“Students are taught how to play it from an early age, and festivals and concerts are central to ensuring its viability,” it added.
Jamaica has applied to have the genre accepted on the list last month.
Originating within the cultural space of marginalized groups, mainly in Western Kingston, the Reggae Music of Jamaica combines musical influences from earlier Jamaican forms as well as Caribbean, North American and Latin strains. Toots and the Maytals and Bob Marley and the Wailers then proceeded to expand reggae globally.
See Jamaica’s Minister of Culture Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange’s speech to the committee here.