Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.11

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Greece has nominated Rebetiko (No. 01291) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Rebetiko is a musical and cultural expression directly linked to song and dance that initially spread among the urban lower and working-class populations in the early twentieth century. Rebetiko songs are now a standardized repertoire in almost every social occasion involving music and dance. The element is performed in public and performers encourage audience participation. The practice is open to all and bearers could include any Greek or Greek-speaking person who enjoys this form of music and dance. Rebetiko songs contain invaluable references to the customs, practices and traditions of a particular way of life, but above all the practice is a living musical tradition with a strong symbolic, ideological and artistic character. Initially, transmission occurred exclusively orally, through the live performance of songs and the instruction of younger performers with older instrumentalists and singers. This non-formal method of learning is still important, but the recent spread of sound recordings, the mass media and cinema have reinforced other methods of transmission. In the past decade, Rebetiko has increasingly been taught in music schools, conservatories and universities, contributing to its wider dissemination, and the musicians and people who enjoy Rebetiko continue to play a key role in keeping the practice alive.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Rebetiko was born in multiethnic milieux and has since evolved to become known, nowadays, as a characteristic cultural expression for the identity of Greek people. The element began its life among the poor urban population and later expanded to the middle classes and other parts of Greek society. Rebetiko is a form of music and dance that is widespread among a vast audience in Greece and other parts of the world, particularly among Greek-speaking people. The nomination explains how the element creatively adapted musical factors from various sources and how it has continued to transmit its music in specific ways over many decades. The State Party has clearly described the dynamic and inclusive nature of the element, including the evolving involvement of women. The skills related to this expression are transmitted through informal means or in music schools. Rebetiko has symbolic and aesthetic functions, and plays an important social identity role. The element also constitutes a powerful reference point for collective memory.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would contribute to raising the visibility of intangible cultural heritage at the regional and international levels through the inclusion of an element that testifies to the successful adaptation and creative transformation of old musical, poetical and dance forms taking place in rapidly changing social and economic environments. Inspired by changing ways of life in Greece and other cultures over the past eighty years, Rebetiko is part of a diverse range of urban musical traditions that contribute to the integration of marginalized social groups and refugees, thereby fostering intercultural connections.

R.3:   The viability of the element is ensured by the communities, groups and individuals concerned through measures such as research, documentation, transmission and awareness-raising activities. The authorities and institutions of the State Party have also demonstrated a commitment to supporting the implementation of the safeguarding measures by providing both financial and technical support, such as through the management of relevant museums, for example the Museum of Greek Folk Music, as well as through academic research, documentation, educational activities for school children and raising awareness about Rebetiko. V.Tsitsanis Museum, in the town of Trikkala, will be dedicated to the element. The bearer communities took an active part in the long consultation process and their views have been noted and included in the safeguarding measures.

R.4:   The meetings organized to obtain consent are well explained, with sufficient details provided. Debates were held among the communities concerned and representatives of institutions concerning which of the Lists the State Party should submit the nomination for. Many highly personalized letters of consent (many of which are handwritten) are provided, describing the exciting personal histories behind the element. Rebetiko is performed publicly and there are no customary practices governing access to it.

R.5:   The element was included in the Greek National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016 and the entry has been uploaded onto the dedicated website of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. The body responsible for inventorying and the implementation of the Convention in Greece is the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage within the Ministry of Culture and Sports. The inventory was drawn up following a series of consultations with Rebetiko community performers, bearers and researchers. The Rebetiko entry in the Greek National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage is to be updated every five years.

  1. Inscribes Rebetiko on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Invites the State Party to actively support initiatives from tradition bearers and practitioners aiming at safeguarding the element;
  3. Commends the State Party for the quality of the safeguarding activities, particularly as regards the cooperation between musicians and educational programmes in museums.