Africa: Reggae Makes UNESCO World Heritage List

Africa's reggae icon Lucky Dube.
30 November 2018

The UN's cultural agency said reggae music has contributed to "international discourse on issues" such as injustice and resistance. Kingston has described the music tradition as "uniquely Jamaican."

The United Nations' cultural and scientific agency UNESCO on Thursday added reggae music to its list of global cultural treasures, saying its worldwide popularity "continues to act as a voice for all.".

"Its 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," UNESCO said.

Jamaica had pushed for the rich music tradition to be listed as "intangible cultural heritage," and as such, deemed worthy of protection under UNESCO.

Ahead of the vote, Jamaican Culture Minister Olivia Grange said that her country pushed for reggae to be added to the prestigious list as a "uniquely Jamaican" musical tradition that has touched communities across the globe.

"It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world," Grande said.

'Burnin' and lootin'

Reggae originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s, blending the country's ska, and rocksteady genres with blues and jazz. Songs of the genre often addressed sociopolitical issues, including inequality, police brutality and imprisonment.

"This morning I woke up in a curfew / Oh God, I was a prisoner too / Could not recognize the faces standing over me / They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality," reggae icon Bob Marley sung on the 1973 track "Burnin' and lootin'."

Many songs in the reggae tradition also extolled peace, unity and positivity, such as Marley's "One love" and Desmond Dekker's "Sing a little song."

Germany's own variation of reggae has been propagated by artists such as Gentleman and Seeed.

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