Mariachi, fado, Chinese shadow puppetry on UN list

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2011 1:34 AM
Mariachi, fado, Chinese shadow puppetry on UN list

Mexican mariachi music, Chinese shadow puppetry and poetic dueling from Cyprus were among the cultural traditions identified by the United Nations on Tuesday as in need of protection.

Also added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list _ now in its second year and nearly 250 strong _ were French-style horseback riding, which celebrates harmony between beast and man, the doleful fado songs of Portugal and Jultagi tightrope walking from Korea.

The UNESCO intergovernmental committee _ wrapping up its weeklong meeting on Indonesia's resort island of Bali _ was looking at oral traditions, art forms, and rituals handed down from one generation to the next.

Such "living" practices, which bind communities together and provide them with a sense of continuity, are in danger of being lost, some more than others, according to members who added 19 new items in total.

China's Hezhen Yimakan storytelling, the traditional building of Iranian Lenj boats and the Saman dance from Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh, for instance, were identified as in urgent need of safeguarding.

"I'm deeply moved," said Ibrahim Ahmad, a former separatist rebel from Aceh, which recently emerged from decades of civil war.

In the Saman dance, boys and young men sit on the ground, clapping and slapping their thighs, chest and the ground, while rhythmically twisting their heads and bodies.

"What an honor," said Ahmad. "This dance brings together a variety of dynamic movements without any collision, it's truly a symbol of unity."

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Also on UNESCO's "intangible" list was the ceremonial Turkish meat dish, Keskek, a ritual of transplanting rice in Hiroshima, Japan, and traditional knowledge of jaguar shamans in Columbia.

The committee commended mariachi, often ensembles playing trumpets, violins and guitars, for teaching "values of respect" for Mexico's history and Indian roots. Chinese shadow puppetry, a type of theater performed on a backlit cloth screen, "spreads knowledge and promotes cultural values," they said.

And Tsiattista, an impromptu form of poetry in Cyprus, celebrates performers' wit and rich vocabulary as they try to out do one another in constructing clever verses of rhyming couplets.


Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report from Jakarta.