DR Congo wants ‘lingala’ on Unesco heritage list

Tuesday February 27 2018

Rhumba star Zao Zoba from Congo Brazzaville performed at the Amani Festival.

Rhumba star Zao Zoba from Congo Brazzaville performed at the Amani Festival. PHOTO | JEAN-PIERRE AFADHALI | NMG 

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Officials in charge of culture in Democratic Republic Congo are pushing to make rhumba music a Unesco world heritage. The music genre is considered a national heritage. In East Africa, it is known as lingala.

The goal to make it a world heritage was revealed recently at the fifth Amani Music Festival — one of the biggest cultural and entertainment events in the Great Lakes — held in Goma town, the provincial capital of North Kivu province, in Eastern DR Congo.

Minister of Culture and Arts Astrid Madiya said the government has signed two orders to make rhumba a national cultural heritage and another to include it on Unesco’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Intangible cultural heritage include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

During the Amani Festival, some of the biggest names in rhumba performed, such as Ferre Gola, young stars from DR Congo and Zao Zoba from Congo Brazzaville.

DR Congo rhumba, also known as lingala, is a genre of dance music that originated in the Congo basin during the 1940s, with strong similarities to Cuban rhumba. Music experts say the style gained popularity throughout Africa during the 1960s and 1970s.

Well known artistes who helped grow the popularity of lingala include Papa Wemba, who died in 2016 while performing in Ivory Coast. Others are Koffi Olomide, Franco and TPOK Jazz, Tabu Ley Rochereau and young artists such as Fally Ipupa.