By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - Congolese rumba, one of the most influential genres of African music and dance, was added Tuesday to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity recognized by UNESCO.
Intangible cultural heritage or living heritage is “a legacy from ancestors that is passed “on to our descendants,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
This includes “oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, and festive events.”
Attaining the status is the climax of a campaign by the Democratic Republic of Congo and the neighboring Republic of Congo.
The two countries occupy the ancient kingdom of Kongo - where the sinuous dance originated. Some 60 applications were submitted by countries.
The announcement came as a relief for many artists who practice the musical genre.
Speaking after the announcement, DR Congo’s Culture Minister Catherine Kathungu Furaha announced plans to organize a series of activities, including lectures, radio and television broadcasts, exhibitions and the possibility of creating a museum for rumba.
“Rumba is our identity and our wealth. The rumba, this phenomenon of the cities of which Kinshasa and Brazzaville are the homes, is the memory of our peoples,” she told a videoconference with the validation committee in Paris.
“The inscription of the Congolese rumba on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is the consecration of our common identity, African identity, way of life, state of mind, knowledge and anthropological know-how. It will have to be celebrated with pomp.”
The application for the inscription of rumba on the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity was made in March 2020.
The rumba, according to UNESCO, is considered an essential and representative part of the identity of Congolese people and its diaspora. It is perceived as a means of conveying the social and cultural values of the region and of promoting intergenerational and social cohesion and solidarity.
Generally danced by a male-female couple, it is a multicultural form of expression originating from an ancient dance called nkumba (meaning ‘waist’ in Kikongo). The rumba is used for celebration and mourning, in private, public and religious spaces. It is performed by professional and amateur orchestras, choirs, dancers and individual musicians, and women have played a predominant role in the development of religious and romantic styles.
Other living traditions with the same heritage status include Jamaican reggae music, Cuban rumba and Singaporean hawker food.