Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.a.2

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Colombia has nominated Traditional Vallenato music of the Greater Magdalena region (No. 01095) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Traditional Vallenato music fuses cultural expressions from northern Colombia, the songs of cow-herders of the Greater Magdalena region and the chants of African slaves with the traditional dance rhythms of the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. These expressions are also blended with Spanish poetry and musical instruments of European derivation. The lyrics of traditional Vallenato music interpret the world through stories that mix realism and fantasy, expressed through songs that are nostalgic, joyful, sarcastic and humorous. Traditional instruments include a small drum played with the hands, a wooden ribbed stick played with a wire comb, and an accordion. Traditional Vallenato music falls into four main rhythms or beats known as airs, each of which has a distinctive rhythmic pattern. Traditional Vallenato music is performed at Vallenato music festivals and crucially at parrandas where friends and family gather, thus playing a crucial role in building a regional shared identity. It is also transmitted by teaching in formal academic settings. The element faces a number of risks to its viability, however, notably the armed conflict in Colombia fuelled by drug trafficking. In addition, a new wave of Vallenato is marginalizing traditional Vallenato music and diminishing its role in social cohesion. Lastly, the use of street spaces for Vallenato parrandas is declining, removing a crucial space for intergenerational transfer of musical knowledge.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

U.1:   Traditional Vallenato music incorporates diverse historical influences, involves a range of specialized practitioners belonging to various social classes and serves as a channel of social communication, thus providing the communities of the Greater Magdalena region with a sense of regional identity, cohesion and continuity;

U.2:   The role of the element in conveying topical messages, enabling community reflection on societal complexities and tensions and inculcating a sense of identity and continuity is today threatened by the long-lasting drug trafficking in the region, an internal armed conflict and consequent displacement, poverty and rupture in rural and urban social fabric, the loss of traditional performing venues as well as a lack of appreciation among younger generations for the narrative, testimonial and reflexive aspects of the element; the element’s viability is also threatened by the large commercial boom of the new wave of Vallenato music, which is tailored in line with market demands;

U.3:   The safeguarding plan provides a comprehensive description of its strategic action lines and identifies concrete activities for its implementation, aimed at strengthening the transfer of knowledge, the developing of forms of community organization to enable policymaking, the evaluation and control by means of a monitoring committee, among others, to which Colombia is obliged to compliance. The allocated budget, as submitted by the State Party, shows a commitment to employ public funding tied to national taxes and other resources in order to implement the timeline of activities outlined in the existing safeguarding plan, thus ensuring the viability of the urgent measures which aim at improving the sustainability of the element;

U.4:   The preparation of the nomination relied on a collaboration between numerous community representatives, researchers, promoters and officials; a large number of documents indicating free, prior and informed consent attest to community participation, though also indicating a predominance of other stakeholders over practitioners;

U.5:   Since 2013, the traditional Vallenato music of the Caribbean region has been included in the National Representative List, which is maintained in compliance with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention; the inventory extract is very informative, in particular regarding the transformation of the element in recent times, the threats it faces and the course of action that may adequately respond to them.

  1. Inscribes Traditional Vallenato music of the Greater Magdalena region on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Takes note that the safeguarding plan includes actions that address the immediate emergency situation by strengthening the social function of Vallenato through reinforcing its active and sustainable presence in public spaces, which is an essential instrument for social inclusion and dialogue in the path towards building a peaceful society;
  3. Commends the State Party for proposing an element that reflects a long-standing dialogue between communities of different descents, along with demonstrating a creative merging of cultural expression and social relevance embodied in the intangible cultural heritage;
  4. Requests the State Party to provide a detailed and comprehensive report on the budget execution, as well as the corresponding timeline of activities, in its next periodic report, in conformity with paragraphs 160 to 164 of the Operational Directives for the Implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.