Congolese Rumba music enters the UNESCO heritage list

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The United Nations’ cultural, educational and scientific agency, UNESCO, has added Congolese rumba to its list of intangible cultural heritage.

Standing the leading music in Africa, Congolese Rumba is rich in African cultures, heritage and humanity; everything tells about Africa.

During its recent study meeting of some sixty applications, the UNESCO Committee had finally announced that the Congolese rumba was admitted to its list of intangible heritage and humanity after a request from the Democratic Republic of Congo. (DRC) and Congo Brazzaville.

Rumba music has its origins in the ancient kingdom of Kongo, where a dance called Nkumba was practiced. It had earned its heritage status for its unique sound which blends the drumming of enslaved Africans with the melodies of Spanish colonizers.

Music represents part of the identity of the Congolese people and their diaspora.

During the slave trade, Africans brought their culture and music to the United States of America and the Americas. They made their instruments, rudimentary at first, later more sophisticated, to give birth to jazz and Rumba.

The rumba in its modern version is a century old based on polyrhythms, drums and percussion, guitar and bass, all bringing together cultures, nostalgia and the pleasure of sharing.

Rumba music is marked by the political history of the Congolese people before and after independence, then became popular throughout Africa south of the Sahara.

Beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville, Rumba occupies a prominent place across the African continent through a social, political and cultural heritage preceding the independence of African nations.

The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo had submitted a joint bid to have their rumba given heritage status for its unique sound that blends the drumming of enslaved Africans with the melodies of Spanish colonizers.

UNESCO has added Congolese Rumba music to its World Heritage List. The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo had submitted a joint application to have their Rumba receive World Heritage status, much to the delight of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.

“The rumba is used for celebration and mourning, in private, public and religious spaces,” the UNESCO quote said. Describing it as an essential and representative element of the identity of the Congolese people and its diaspora.

The office of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, said in a tweet that “the President of the Republic welcomes with joy and pride the addition of Congolese rumba to the list of cultural heritage”.

The people of the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville have said that the Rumba dance is still alive and hope that its inscription on the UNESCO list will give it greater fame, even among Congolese and Africa.

Rumba music has been marked by Congo’s political history before and after independence and is now present in all areas of national life, said Andre Yoka Lye, director of the DRC’s National Institute of Arts in the capital Kinshasa.

The music draws on nostalgia, cultural exchange, resistance, resilience and sharing fun through its flamboyant dress code, he said.

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