Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.20

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Azerbaijan and Türkiye have nominated Craftsmanship and performing art of balaban/mey (No. 01704) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Balaban (in Azerbaijan) or Mey (in Türkiye) is a centuries-old woodwind instrument made up of three parts: a body, a wide and flat double reed and a clip. The instrument is traditionally made of plum or apricot wood and coated with linseed or olive oil. Once dry, crafters drill several holes into the front of the body and one hole into the back. The sizes, number of holes and materials used vary according to the region. The knowledge, skills and techniques of crafting and playing Balaban are typically passed on informally within families through observation and hands-on experience, as well as through apprenticeships. The musical practice is also transmitted formally in universities and high schools, traditional music conservatories, institutions and student music communities. Balaban plays a significant role in the music cultures of Azerbaijan and Türkiye and is commonly used as a solo or accompanying instrument at folk festivities, weddings and concerts. A vital part of the identity and collective memory of its musicians and craftspeople, it is also an important means of promoting cultural identity, solidarity and social memory in both countries, with people of all ages, genders, socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities gathering to listen to and participate in the performances.

  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:   Bearers include the craftspeople who make the instrument and the various groups and individuals who play it. The knowledge, skills and techniques of craftsmanship and performance of Balaban/Mey are transmitted informally within families, orally and through observation and hands-on practice as well as apprenticeships. The element is also transmitted in schools and music conservatories and through performances. The element plays an important role in social practices and the promotion of social memory and cultural identity. It is performed at folk festivities, weddings and concerts, and is an integral part of orchestras, minstrels and folklore groups. The sound of the Balaban/Mey is perceived as soothing and providing psychological relief. The craftsmanship and performing art of Balaban/Mey promotes social cohesion between the communities concerned.

R.2:   Locally, inscription would increase the visibility of other intangible cultural heritage involving craftsmanship and performing arts in rural and urban areas. The resulting media promotion would also contribute to visibility and awareness and might inspire other communities to identify and safeguard their living heritage as well. At the national level, inscription would highlight the role of music education institutes in the transmission and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. At the international level, inscription of this multinational file would also highlight the role of the 2003 Convention in uniting countries in their efforts to safeguard shared living heritage. It would also encourage other stakeholders within Türkiye and Azerbaijan to support safeguarding activities jointly, while increasing respect for the diversity of living heritage within different communities. Inscription would foster exchange and collaboration with a view to transmission and safeguarding living heritage. Inscription will also promote intergenerational dialogue and master-student relationships.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include promoting the element through trainings, manuals, research and private courses. Proposed safeguarding measures include transmission, education, capacity building, documentation, research, inventorying and awareness-raising. Other measures include workshops, a symposium, research, exchange programmes and concerts, and ensuring regular exchange of information to monitor the impact of the inscription. In both countries, the State supports safeguarding efforts through coordinating state agencies, providing funding, and archival work. For the joint measures, support mechanisms, a network and coordination efforts will be established. In Azerbaijan, community members and organizations were involved in preparatory meetings relating to the safeguarding measures, and a working group reviewed the proposals. In Türkiye, the Ministry of Culture organized bilateral meetings with bearers, practitioners and academics. A working group developed the safeguarding measures.

R.4:   In Azerbaijan, a working group consisting of communities, national and local authorities and experts was formed to prepare the nomination file. In Türkiye, bilateral meetings were organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism with bearers, practitioners and academics to prepare the nomination file. Representatives of stakeholders from Türkiye and Azerbaijan met in February 2020 in Baku to prepare the joint nomination. The content of the nomination file was approved and finalized via e-mail and national and international online meetings with representatives of NGOs, craftspeople and performers.

R.5:   In 2020, the element was included in the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which is managed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Several practitioners and relevant organizations were involved in inventorying and defining the element. The inventory is reviewed and updated every three years, on the basis of proposals from communities, NGOs and practitioners. Since 2020, the element has been part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage National Inventory of Türkiye, which is managed by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Directorate General of Research and Training, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Evaluation Commission and the Local Intangible Cultural Heritage Boards of Türkiye. Twice a year, meetings are held to revise and update the national inventory. The Local Intangible Cultural Heritage Boards play a crucial role in updating the inventories, in close collaboration with communities. At the Ministry of Culture, the Evaluation Commission decides upon registration of elements in the inventory, and evaluates and adopts updating requests. The requests are approved by the Minister of Culture and Tourism and published in the inventory.

  1. Decides to inscribe Craftsmanship and performing art of balaban/mey on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the States Parties for jointly implementing past and current safeguarding measures.