Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.b.31

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Serbia has nominated Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle (No. 01377) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle – a simple string instrument – is an ancient art of performing primarily heroic epics practised for centuries as a form of historical memory and an expression of cultural identity. Performances involve a complex form of interaction between the audience and performer and are based on the skills and creativity of soloist artists (guslars): the guslars’ ability to dramatize poetic content, body language and charisma are key for successful performances. The repertoire includes songs predominantly about mythical and historical heroes, events from the legendary past, ancient or recent history and, less commonly, ballads and humorous songs. Stage performances take place locally, at festivals, and as part of commemoration practices. Covering a wide range of topics, the songs reflect the value system of the community and their interactive character fosters community feeling. Most modern guslars acquire the basic singing and playing skills from more experienced players in their family, local community or a guslar association, but the skills are also transmitted in public music schools. Local organizations are assembled around the Union of Guslars of Serbia, whose efforts have resulted in the establishment of the Festival of Young Guslars and the Assembly of the Young Guslars of Serbia.

  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:   Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle is an important social, cultural and symbolic element rooted in the everyday life of its practitioners. It promotes friendship, embodies an ethical code that rests on the principles of honour, truthfulness and loyalty and reflects the community’s value system and the specific features of the local cultural identity. Thanks to its interactive character, the element also strengthens community cohesion.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would highlight the role of intangible cultural heritage in overcoming ethnic and religious differences in a diversified society. The element contributes to cultural dialogue among communities by promoting cross-cultural ethical values and blending traditional and archaic musical forms with innovations and contemporary interpretations.

R.3:   Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle is widely practised across the country and its viability has been ensured by numerous local associations and folk music groups. The Union of Guslars of Serbia is responsible for the community-based safeguarding measures, regularly supported by the government and other cultural institutions. The clearly presented safeguarding measures highlight interdisciplinary research and include the documentation, promotion and transmission of the element, as well as education regarding the general importance of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.

R.4:   The tradition bearers initiated the nomination and actively participated in the preparation of the file. The different stages of the nomination process and the roles of all the stakeholders are described. A large number of consent letters from a wide range of institutions and individuals demonstrates the community’s will to see the element inscribed.

R.5:   The element has been included in the Serbian National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2012. The register is periodically updated by the Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage at the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade and intangible cultural heritage is identified and inventoried with the participation of the communities.

  1. Inscribes Singing to the accompaniment of the Gusle on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.