Unesco protects Congolese rumba

Congolese rumba is now Unesco-protected. It is one of the most important genres in African music and dance.

Unesco protects Congolese rumba

It is the culmination of two years of campaigning by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Congo-Brazzaville neighbor.

Both of them occupy the former ancient kingdom Kongo, where the sinuous dance was born according to their joint application.

"Nkumba", the Kikongo word that means navel in Kikongo, is what "rumba" actually comes from.

Congolese rumba is now included with other living traditions, such as Jamaican reggae and Singaporean hawker foods on Unesco's "intangible culture heritage of humanity" list. This status, according to the UN's cultural body, helps "maintain cultural diversity in the face of increasing globalization".

Although it has African roots, rumba is now more closely associated with Latin dance than its African counterparts. In 2016, Unesco granted Cuban rumba world heritage status. We want rumba recognized as ours. It is our identity.

"When our ancestors were taken away and wanted to remember their history, their origin, and their memories, they did the navel dance."

Cuban rumba, a style of rhythm that originated in 19th century Cuba, was influenced by the drumming of slaves in central Africa. This was combined with Spanish colonisers' melodies.

The rhythm remained distinct, so that it was instantly recognized as rumba when the vinyl records were sent to central Africa in 20th Century.

Wendo Kolosoy and Paul Nkamba were among the earliest heroes in Congolese rumba. Franco and TPOK Jazz, Tabu Lee Rochereau, and Dr Nico were also included.

The Independence Cha Cha by Le Grand Kalle was a song that sparked African nationalism and helped them fight for their independence. Later, Zaiko Langa Langa was born and Papa Wemba became a star. Koffi Olomide was one of his proteges. He is still popular today, along with Fally Ipupa.

It is a matter of debate whether or not the current crop of rumba performers are true to the form.

"We didn't use drums. We used maracas. It wasn't rough, it was gentle. That's rumba. People are more relaxed when you play rumba, and they dance," Dawa Lusambu (artistic director at TPOK Jazz) told Emery Makumeno of BBC Kinshasa.

"It's not like today's young people, where you dance rumba and sweat. It's not rumba.

Fred Kabeya, a musician, said that "Rumba" is not dead. He added, "Rumba remains rumba. We try to add more harmony, more chords, but keep the same Congolese-rumba base."

It is clear that rumba is a powerful musical instrument. Unesco should recognize its influence and help the next generation of musicians.

"We cannot rest on our laurels," Professor Andre Yoka Lye Mudaba of the DR Congo's national organization for the promotion rumba said to the BBC. This is an incentive to have a more cohesive and innovative policy regarding the professionalization of the creative industries.

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