Will the Unmistakable Sound of Congolese Rumba Make it on the Heritage List?

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With its rhythmic drumming and elaborate dancing, rumba is arguably Congo’s biggest cultural export. In the country, an official campaign has been launched to promote the inclusion of rumba, considered a major genre of African music, in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.

Several Congolese artists have welcomed the initiative pioneered by the government in Kinshasa. The UN’s cultural and educational arm in 2016 recognized Cuban rumba, a close cousin of Congo’s as a cultural heritage of humanity after years of lobbying.

Campaigners in Congo hope to achiever similar success. The launch of the campaign took place during a ceremony presided over by the Congolese Minister of Culture. Congolese rumba developed in the Congo River basin in the 1940s, inspired by Latin and Caribbean music.

It gained widespread popularity in the 1960s and 70s, developing spinoffs, including a high-tempo version called soukous.

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