Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.B.38

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Algeria has nominated Raï, popular folk song of Algeria (No. 01894) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Raï is a popular folk song from Algeria. A means of conveying social reality without taboos or censorship, Raï music touches on topics such as love, freedom, despair and social pressures. It was originally practised in rural settings by doyens who sang poetic texts in vernacular Arabic, accompanied by a traditional orchestra. At the turn of the twentieth century, prima donnas added transgressive ideas, singing about the freedom to love and desire, while glorifying God and the saints. Over time, Raï gradually earned acclaim, first at the national level during rituals and weddings, then at the global level thanks to artists such as Khaled and Mami, moving the performances from enclosed spaces to cultural events, celebrations and national and religious festivals. Its message of freedom and transgression has become universal, borne by young women and men who sing and dance for the youth of their country and the rest of the world. Raï music is thus viewed as a genre for young people, representing a channel for them to express their feelings in their quest to break free from social constraints. Musicians make and decorate their own instruments and transmission is done informally, through observation, or formally, through apprenticeships.

  1. Considers 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:   Raï is a form of folk music that is practiced during ritual festivals and weddings across Algeria. The bearers include doyens, prima donnas (‘cheikhat’), younger singers, lyricists, poets, musicians, composers, arrangers, publishers and producers and manufacturers of traditional instruments. The roles of the bearers are explained in the file. The knowledge and skills of the element are transmitted through observation or from masters to apprentices. Raï is a part of the deeply ingrained culture of rural and nomadic populations and promotes a friendly, sociable atmosphere during community and family festivities. The element is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and sustainable development. It is a universally accessible element with no restrictions or gender distinctions.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will promote the cultural and social practices of the towns and places that contributed to the emergence of Raï while strengthening people's sense of belonging and showcasing their way of life and customs. At the national level, inscription will contribute to the recognition of the aesthetic and artistic dimensions of Raï and of intangible cultural heritage in general. At the international level, the file explains that awareness of the element will be increased and that inscription will encourage a stronger appreciation of the importance of intangible cultural heritage and of the world's cultural diversity.

R.4:   The nomination file was prepared by a team of researchers from the National Centre of Prehistoric, Anthropological and Historic Research. Field surveys were conducted with the active participation of local stakeholders, cultural associations and the culture directorates in various provinces. Various meetings, events and interviews were held with Raï singers during the nomination process. The file includes a set of letters indicating the free, prior and informed consent of scientists, university lecturers, writers, musicians and musicologists.

R.5:   The element is included on the Banque Nationale de Données du Patrimoine Culturel Immatériel de l'Algérie. The inventory is maintained by the Centre National de Recherches Préhistoriques, Anthropologiques et Historiques. The element was first included on the inventory in January 2015 and updated in 2019 and 2021. The inventorying process involves researchers who conduct field surveys to collect information. Bearers and practitioners work with the researchers to identify and define the element. Updates to the inventory are carried out every one to two years.

  1. Further considers that, on the basis of the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting State Party through the dialogue process, the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is satisfied:

R.3:   The file explains that the past and current safeguarding efforts were carried out by various cultural associations, which played an active part in cultural and musical events at the local, national and international levels, such as the Raï festival, heritage month, cultural weeks, artists' day, national and religious festivities, as well as global events. The State Party safeguards the element through the creation of the national Raï festival in Oran, the protection of Raï by legal instruments, supporting documentation efforts, etc. The proposed safeguarding measures include the organisation of festivals with the involvement of civil societies, conducting workshops for imparting and sharing skills associated with Raï, organising a scientific symposium on Raï, etc. The working groups on Raï have brought together and involved the communities in various meetings in order to plan the different safeguarding measures. In addition, the communities have proposed to structure themselves into several associations in order to participate in the implementation of the safeguarding measures.

  1. Decides to inscribe Raï, popular folk song of Algeria on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for the submission of an improved file following the decision of the Committee to refer the file in 2020.