Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.b.18

The Committee

  1. 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. Reggae festivals and concerts such as Reggae Sumfest and Rebel Salute and the more than 368 Reggae festivals held annually across the world provide annual outlets, as well as an opportunity for understudy and transmission for upcoming artists, musicians and other practitioners.

  1. 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.

  1. Further decides that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:

R.2:   The element’s continued impact in fostering a better understanding of musical art as a tool for promoting dialogue among people and appreciating cultural diversity among ethnic groups worldwide is recognized. Reggae Music of Jamaica has influenced or stimulated the development of other intangible cultural heritage elements worldwide such as Jawaiian Reggae, Reggaeton in Latin America, Pinoy Reggae in the Philippines and Dub and Dub Poetry in Canada and the United Kingdom. The transmission to youth through formal, academic programmes at the secondary and tertiary levels as well the several conferences which focus on the element contribute to a better understanding and improving the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general. It is envisioned that once the element is inscribed on the Representative List, peoples, practitioners and communities world-wide, (especially those that practice their own genres and practices inspired by Reggae music), will become more aware of the Convention’s lists. This will have the multiplier effect of raising 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 and is updated bi-monthly and reviewed annually. The inventory is online and is accessible via the internet, with additional elements being added regularly. Inventories are also included in the National Library of Jamaica, various community studios and tertiary institutions, namely the University of the West Indies.

  1. Inscribes Reggae music of Jamaica on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.