Reggae Is Now Protected By Unesco
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Reggae, a movement that was once the music of the marginalised, has now had its cultural value formally recognised. At the end of November, Unesco placed reggae on its list of “intangible cultural heritage” (Quartz).
Many musicians have popularised the genre, from Bob Marley to Jay Z, but its inclusion on Unesco’s list showcases and preserves the genre’s distinctly Jamaican history. Unesco explained:
“in its embryonic state Reggae music was the voice of the marginalized”.
Reggae’s enduring power as a music of the people is one of the key reasons why it is a cultural treasure. Unesco expanded further on its decision, saying:
“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.”
The inclusion of reggae on Unesco’s list is largely symbolic, although the United Nations does provide resources to preserve and safeguard cultural heritage, as well as to promote their value. In one such promotion, Unesco created the short educational video on reggae music featured below.
Before Unesco recognised reggae’s cultural importance, the Jamaican government had already begun to take steps to preserve the music movement. With radio stations dedicated to reggae, an annual Reggae Month which takes place in February and plans to mount public exhibitions on the genre, the country is dedicated to preserving its heritage. Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Culture Minister, stressed the importance that reggae be “recognised worldwide as the creative output of the Jamaican people.”
If you would like to find out the full list of 300 cultural traditions recognised by Unesco, click here.