Congolese rumba, intangible cultural heritage of humanity

In the paradise of ambianceurs on both banks of the Congo River, the Papa Wemba, Grand Kallé, Wendo, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Franklin Boukaka and other Pamelo Mounka are happy: the Congolese rumba is officially part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Unesco, meeting this week to study about sixty candidates, announced Tuesday, December 14 on Twitter that the Congolese rumba – file presented by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Congo-Brazzaville – was admitted on its list. She joined the Cuban rumba, registered in 2016 and, for Central Africa, the pygmy polyphonies of Central Africa (2003) or the drums of Burundi (2014).

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“This wealth coming from the Congo and exported all over the world is one of the elements of our pride”, had tweeted the Minister of Communication and spokesperson for the DRC government Patrick Muyaya as early as last Thursday, when a press conference was organized to comment on the event, a few days in advance. “It is the duty of all of us to promote #Rumba”, he added.

In Kinshasa and Brazzaville, specialists locate the origins of rumba in the former Kongo kingdom, where a dance called Nkumba was practiced, which means ” navel “, because she made man and woman dance navel against navel.

Music of “resistance and resilience”

With the slave trade, Africans brought their culture and music to the Americas. They made their instruments, rudimentary at the beginning, more sophisticated later, to give birth to jazz in the north, rumba in the south. Before this music was brought back to Africa by traders, with records and guitars.

Rumba in its modern version is a hundred years old. It is a music of towns and bars, of meeting cultures and nostalgia, of “Resistance and resilience”, from “Sharing pleasure too”, with its lifestyle and dress codes (” leave on “), recently explained to AFP Professor André Yoka Lye, director in Kinshasa of the National Institute of the Arts (INA). For him, rumba is “Sprawling, present in all areas of national life”. It is marked by the political history of the two Congos, before and after independence.

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It has had ups and downs, its stars are sometimes controversial or even scandalous, its production and distribution networks are criticized for lacking rigor. But it lives and renews itself, we are assured in the two Congolese capitals, where we count on this inscription in the world heritage to give it a new notoriety, including among the Congolese themselves. “We are the land of rumba, what do we do with it? “, wondered the DRC Minister of Communication.

The World with AFP

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Congolese rumba, intangible cultural heritage of humanity