This article was updated on November 29.
Waka waka is the sound of the first riffs that open âStir It Upâ by Bob Marley. Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” begins with slow-paced horns that give way to her cool cadence. The drums stop with the guitars at the top of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It”.
It’s reggae: sweet, charming, cool, collected, classic.
Jamaica, where the sound first gave voice to the oppressed and the hopes, asked to add reggae to Unesco’s list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity, and the genre received this honor on Thursday, as well as several other novelties.
“It will be a major achievement for Jamaica if we manage to have the designation declared by Unesco,” Olivia Grange, the country’s Minister of Culture, said at a press conference last month.
Unlike the Unesco World Heritage List, which includes sites considered important to humanity such as the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt or the Taj Mahal in India, the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity documents elements and practices from different cultures that deserve to be recognized. Another, Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding, includes endangered elements of a culture that are in danger of disappearing.
Reggae, which rose to prominence in the 1960s, often celebrates Jah, or God; ganja or marijuana; and Ras Tafari, also known as Haile Selassie, the former Ethiopian emperor, whom Rastafarians revere as the messiah. It is also meant to put listeners in a calm groove.
As sound connected continents and offered denigrated a way to heal and sing, it inspired many other genres, including dancehall; reggaeton, popular in Latin America, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; and reggae fusion, which includes elements of jazz, hip-hop or pop and is popular in the United States and Europe.
Reggae was also a mainstay in the founding of hip-hop. Songs like “Bam Bam” have been sampled countless times by artists such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Lauryn Hill.
Jamaica hoped to protect this facet of its rich culture by having radio stations that continuously broadcast reggae and interview people of the genre. It also holds public exhibitions and presentations on reggae music in museums and will celebrate Reggae Month in February, the month of Bob Marley’s birth.
Other new additions to Unesco’s list include the Irish hurling game, Japanese Raiho-shin rituals, and traditional Kazakhstani spring festive rites.