Congolese Rumba Music Enters UNESCO Heritage List

Last updated:

The  cultural, educational, and scientific agency UNESCO has added the Congolese rumba dance to its intangible cultural heritage list.

Standing the leading music in Africa, the Congolese Rumba is rich with African cultures, heritage, and humanity; all telling about Africa.  

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

Rumba music draws its origins in the old kingdom of Kongo, where one practiced a dance called Nkumba. It had gained its heritage status for its unique sound that melds the drumming of enslaved Africans with the melodies of Spanish colonizers.

The music represents part of the identity of 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 the beginning, more sophisticated later, to give birth to jazz and Rumba.

Rumba in its modern version is a hundred years old based on polyrhythms, drums, and percussions, guitar and bass, all bringing together cultures, nostalgia, and sharing pleasure.

Rumba music is marked by the political history of 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 social, political, and cultural heritage preceding the independence of African nations. 

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

UNESCO added Congolese Rumba music to its world heritage list. The Democratic Republic of Congo and the Congo Republic had submitted a joint bid for their Rumba to receive the World Heritage status, much to the delight of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.

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

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

The people of both DRC and Congo-Brazzaville said Rumba dance lives on and hope its addition to the UNESCO list will give it greater fame even among Congolese people and Africa. 

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

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related News