UNESCO, the world body’s cultural and scientific agency, recognized and added the music genre from Jamaica to its collection of “intangible cultural heritage” deemed worthy of protection and promotion.
Reggae music’s “contribution to the international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love, and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual,” UNESCO said.
Jamaica applied for reggae’s inclusion on the list this year at a meeting of the UN agency on the island of Mauritius, where 40 proposals were under consideration. Reggae was competing alongside Bahamian strawcraft, South Korean wrestling, Irish hurling and perfume making in the southern French city of Grasse.
Kenya is a huge consumer of reggae music and this has seen many reggae stars from Jamaica such as Tarrus Riley, Chronixx, Alaine, Chris Martin, Cecile, Morgan Heritage, Etana, Alpha Blondie, Maxi Priest, Jah Cure, and others come to the country to perform as well as work with Kenyan artists. Reggae music has also influenced some of Kenyans lifestyle from food, beliefs, dressing and most especially language whereby some people use patois as their language.
The genre which is often championed as a music of the oppressed, with lyrics addressing sociopolitical issues, imprisonment, and inequality quickly became popular in the United States as well as in Britain, where many Jamaican immigrants had moved in the post-WWII years. Reggae has also been associated with Rastafarianism, which pays homage to the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie and promotes the sacramental use of marijuana.
The reggae sound, with its heavy bass lines and drums, has influenced countless artists and inspired many genres including reggaeton, dub, and dancehall. The steady beats and smooth grooves have also proven key to hip-hop: Sister Nancy’s anthem “Bam Bam,” for example, has been heavily sampled by superstars like Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, Chris Brown and Jay-Z.