Reggae is now on UNESCO's list of protected cultural heritage


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/29/reggae-is-now-on-unescos-lis.html


#2

bob-marley-awesome


#3

this is nonsense. I love reggae music and grew up with it but, like with all music it, it is for everyone and is constantly evolving. It is not something to be locked away and pinned down to one place. Anyone in any country can make reggae music and can take inspiration from the original great artists. If it was not for this fact, most people would probably never have heard of it and Bob Marley wouldn’t be one of the most recognisable faces in the world.


#4

run-the-jewels-um-okay-man


#5

It’s actually very international now. From the early days there was a big U.K. reggae scene (lots of Jamaican ex-pats). But now there’s reggae bands all over: U.S., Canada, France, South America, etc. etc…


#6

This designation is recognising reggae’s national and ethnic origins. Nothing nonsensical about making that clear, especially since it’s become international.


#7

Well, it’s interesting you say that. The Committee appears to have had similar concerns and even though the UNESCO website says it was inscribed on the list, I can’t find a decision saying that.

Everything I can find refers to the draft decision of the committee which is:

DRAFT DECISION 13.COM 10.b.18

The Committee

Takes note that Jamaica has nominated Reggae music of Jamaica (No. 01398) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Having originated within a cultural space that was home to marginalized groups, mainly in Western Kingston, the Reggae music of Jamaica is an amalgam of numerous musical influences, including earlier Jamaican forms as well as Caribbean, North American and Latin strains. In time, Neo-African styles, soul and rhythm and blues from North America were incorporated into the element, gradually transforming Ska into Rock Steady and then into Reggae. While in its embryonic state Reggae music was the voice of the marginalized, 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. 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.

Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1: The file demonstrates that Reggae music plays a significant role in the life of musical communities and Jamaican society in general. Reggae music embodies the shared history of the many peoples and groups inhabiting the country, gives creative expression to their belief systems, hopes and aspirations for the future, and serves as a very important factor of identity. The community concerned does not consist solely of musicians, but also includes a wide range of other occupations related to the element, primarily members of the Rastafarian community.

R.3: The viability of the Reggae music in Jamaica is ensured through transmission, research and awareness-raising activities. The proposed safeguarding measures are well-defined and clearly presented. The communities, agencies and institutions that work with the element teach Reggae at schools and organize festivals, contests and other events to reinforce the tradition. Such measures are aimed at encouraging the continued practice of the element. Representative organizations and associations participated in the process of developing safeguarding measures.

R.4: A wide spectrum of relevant stakeholders, associations of practitioners representing individual artists, musicians, writers and composers, NGOs, governmental institutions and public figures were involved in the preparation of the nomination file, led by a national technical committee. They provided their free, prior and informed consent in their capacity as representatives of the musicians and other practitioners.

Further decides that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:

R.2: Despite the potential of the element to foster a better understanding of musical art as a tool for promoting dialogue among people and appreciating cultural diversity among ethnic groups worldwide, the nomination concentrates on raising awareness about the historical antecedents that have shaped the element, pointing out the ‘uniqueness’ of the tradition and highlighting Jamaica’s international recognition as the original birthplace of Reggae instead of contributing to a better understanding and improving the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general.

R.5: The file indicates that the element was included in the Automated Catalogue of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank, the Focal Point for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Jamaica, in 1977. However, the inventory seems more like a database of Reggae Music than an inventory of intangible cultural heritage, which should emphasize the viability of the element, its practitioners and social and cultural functions. The nomination does not demonstrate that the inventory is maintained in line with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention: there is no clear explanation of the involvement of the communities, groups and relevant NGOs in the inventorying process and information on the frequency of updating, the reference number and name(s) of the element in this inventory are also missing.

Decides to refer the nomination of Reggae music of Jamaica to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;

Reminds the State Party that the purpose of the Representative List is neither to promote cultural industries nor to define the specific origins or ownership of elements of intangible cultural heritage practised today;

Further reminds the State Party that not only representatives of the music industry but, firstly, the community of practitioners who identify with the element should be at forefront of any action undertaken to safeguard and raise the visibility of the element;

Further invites the State Party to avoid the use of inappropriate vocabulary and concepts when referring to intangible cultural heritage, such as ‘universality’, claims of ownership and references to ‘authenticity’ in consent letters in particular, which may seem to introduce a hierarchy among expressions of living heritage and are contrary to the living and dynamic nature of intangible cultural heritage as defined under Article 2.1 of the Convention and the aim of the Representative List to encourage dialogue which respects cultural diversity (Article 16 of the Convention).

… which states (right at the end):

Decides to refer the nomination of Reggae music of Jamaica to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;

Reminds the State Party that the purpose of the Representative List is neither to promote cultural industries nor to define the specific origins or ownership of elements of intangible cultural heritage practised today;

Further reminds the State Party that not only representatives of the music industry but, firstly, the community of practitioners who identify with the element should be at forefront of any action undertaken to safeguard and raise the visibility of the element;

Further invites the State Party to avoid the use of inappropriate vocabulary and concepts when referring to intangible cultural heritage, such as ‘universality’, claims of ownership and references to ‘authenticity’ in consent letters in particular, which may seem to introduce a hierarchy among expressions of living heritage and are contrary to the living and dynamic nature of intangible cultural heritage as defined under Article 2.1 of the Convention and the aim of the Representative List to encourage dialogue which respects cultural diversity (Article 16 of the Convention).

i.e. not to inscribe now but try again next time. Odd.


#8

#9

I wish the Committee had added:

Reminds blonde guys with dreadlocks and pot smokers that inclusion on the Representative List does not imply that UNESCO thinks you’re edgy and a rebel.

[I also wish they’d taken the opportunity to carve out an exception for the Dancehall sub-genre as a blight on world heritage, but that’s just my opinion, man.]


#10

No coil, no ‘lock’; that’s just an unkempt mess of attempted cultural appropriation.

Is the jam, when done well.

Reggaeton or Buchata on the other hand…


#11

Indeed. I thought UNESCO was about cultural things needing protection lest they be irretrievably damaged or lost.
There is no shortage of preserved reggae. They are called ‘recordings’.


#12

Both ska and reggae come from Jamaica and have similar/overlapping roots, etc… They have a lot similarities musically and even seem to merge at some point w/ some artists…

BUT, I love ska and loathe* reggae. I’ve always wondered what happened in my brain to cause this.

*That’s probably a strong word for it… and… I mean no offense to those who love reggae, while it’s not for me and I can still appreciate it and that a lot of people love it. Just like ICP… kidding :wink:

While we’re at it, can we protect Ska from shitty X wave American bands?


#13

I’ve found it nothing but unpleasant, but such is personal taste. The constant misogyny and endorsements of violence in the lyrics, on the other hand…


#14

When I lived in the Caribbean for a few years, I was inundated with Reggaeton and Buchata, which I hate… along with Reggae Salsa and Merengue, all of which I love.

As for misogyny in lyrics, you’re not wrong; but it’s a problem in many different genres.


#15

You do know sound records can and do get lost over time for various reasons. Many of the very early sound recordings are lost because of the material they were (the Smithsonian has done some preservation of that early stuff, but much of it was already gone). And in the period during the war, we were unable to get the material to make 78s, so people were asked to turn in their old recordings to be melted down in order to make new ones - who knows how much was lost because there was only one run made and lots of folks turned them in so they could buy new records. The existence of a recording doesn’t ensure its longevity, nor does it preserve the larger historical context of the production, either.

Plus, I’m not sure you guys know how UNESCO works… They’re there to point out and highlight cultural artifacts, tangible and intangible to ensure that they are preserved with their historical context. The sound recordings by themselves only tell you so much about the larger historical context.


#16

Oh, yes. But there is a lot of reggae and it has been through four or five different media so far and will migrate to new ones as they come along. Very little risk of reggae being lost. But I get your wider point about UNESCO.


#17

This past year, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, and was finally recognized as one of the primary creators of the genre. Rock wasn’t lost, but that history was for a very long time. This is not about a genre of music, which will shift and change over time, being lost - it’s about the historical context being lost and the people who created that music not being fully recognized now or in the future. Reggae isn’t just a groovy soundtrack, it has a strong connect to a particular time, place, and faith. That history and context is worth preserving specifically because it has become so popular and morphed in so many ways. This isn’t about saying that you can’t play or enjoy reggae outside of the context of Rastafariaism or outside of Jamaica… it’s saying that it’s important to preserve the historical context for later generations.


#18

Recognizing the cultural importance of an intangible art form is not the same as “locking it away and pinning it down in one place.” There are many buildings recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites, yet architecture continues to evolve.


#19

All things considered covered this story today, and the historian of reggae that they spoke with pretty much hit all the points I did in this thread:

https://www.npr.org/2018/11/29/671996688/unesco-designates-reggae-as-intangible-cultural-heritage


#20

if I could have my twenty-five-year-old hair back i’d show y’all some coil