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Congolese Rumba Is Now A UNESCO-Protected Cultural Gem

Congolese rumba joins other living traditions, like Seychelles' Moutya dance and the Senegalese culinary art of Ceebu jën, in being added to Unesco's "intangible cultural heritage of humanity" list.

For years, Congolese rumba has told stories of mourning and celebration, as a vibrant part of Congolese history. Artists like Papa Wemba, Franco Luambo Makiadi, and Fally Ipupa have taken the sounds of Congolese rumba global. Now UNESCO - the UN's specialized body aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the arts, the sciences, and culture - is recognizing the musical genre and dance for its cultural value and power in social cohesion.

The Congolese rumba is just one of the latest additions to be made to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage. In past years, Jamaican reggae and Singaporean street food have made the cut. The UNESCO committee meets annually to evaluate nominations proposed by countries and decides whether or not to inscribe those cultural practices and expressions asintangible heritage, and therefore in need of protection. Over a summit that has lasted for the past few days, UNESCO has evaluated applications for new additions.

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