UN adds reggae music to list of international cultural treasures. Jamaica’s distinctive beat has furthered ‘international discourse on injustice’, says Unesco – while devotees praise it for breaking down colonial race barriers
The UN has added reggae music to its list of international cultural treasures worthy of protection and promotion.
Jamaica applied for recognition of its musical tradition at a meeting of the UN in Mauritius this year. “It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world,” said the country’s culture minister Olivia Grange.
BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter Dave Rodigan said: “The Unesco announcement is fantastic news for reggae, which has traditionally spoken out for the underprivileged whilst offering hope for a world in which love and respect is paramount.”
To mark reggae’s inscription into the representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, Unesco – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – said: “[Reggae’s] contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, sociopolitical, sensual and spiritual.”
The function of the music “as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice and a means for praising God” had not changed since its emergence from the Caribbean in the late 1960s, said Unesco.
Reggae artist Hollie Cook said that politicians could take a leaf out of reggae’s “strong message of peace, love and unity”, and described its cultural impact as “a great example of how immigration has a great and positive effect in our society. Maybe some of our country’s leaders can put down their pens, stop fear-mongering and blast out some Aswad to relax.”