Music 29 November 2018 | 14:03

UN to add reggae to a list of ‘national treasures’ they will promote and protect

29 November 2018 14:03

The United Nations (UN) confirmed this week that they will be adding reggae music to a list of global ‘cultural treasures’ that they believe are worth ‘promoting and protecting’.

Known for its laidback vibrations and trademark staccato piano and guitar chords, the beloved genre grew out of the Caribbean in the 1960s before becoming globally synonymous with pioneering musicians such as Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer, Prince Buster, Yellowman, Eek-a-Mouse and Bob Marley.

The UN have stated that they have added the genre to the collection due to its ‘intangible cultural heritage’. In a statement released following the decision, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), said that reggae is ‘cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual’.

The seminal reggae sound became popular after it emerged in Jamaica in the late 1960s, and it wasn’t long before it became the island’s most dominant style of music. By the 1970s it had gone global enjoying success in Africa, the United States and Britain. Songs like Millie Small’s ska cover of ‘My Boy Lollipop’, Bob Marley’s ‘Trenchtown Rock’ and Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’ made the whole world aware of Jamaica’s favoured groove.

‘Reggae is uniquely Jamaican,’ Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s culture minister said speaking about the UN’s move. ‘It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world.’

Widely perceived as a tool for giving a voice to the oppressed, reggae has been constantly interwoven with social justice and politics. When the UN announced the decision at a meeting on the island of Mauritius last week, Unesco cited the music’s ‘contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity’.

They added: ‘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.’ Czech puppetry, Spanish riding and Mongolian camel-coaxing rituals were also included in the recent ‘national treasures’ list.

One Love Peace Concert (1978)