Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.15

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Azerbaijan have nominated Art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha, a bowed string musical instrument (No. 01286) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha (‘little bow’), a bowed string instrument, has existed for over 1,000 years. In the Islamic Republic of Iran and Azerbaijan, it constitutes a major element of classical and folkloric music, and performances occupy a central place in a wide number of social and cultural gatherings. Contemporary practitioners mainly use a four-stringed Kamantcheh/Kamancha comprising a body and bow made with horsehair and players perform either individually or as part of orchestras. Bearers and practitioners consist of craftspeople, amateur or professional players, and teachers and students of the element. Kamantcheh/Kamancha is an essential part of musical culture in both countries, and while crafting the instrument represents a direct source of earning a living, craftspeople also perceive the art as a strong part of the intangible cultural heritage of their communities. Through their music, performers convey many themes, from the mythological to the gnostic and the comic. Today, knowledge of performing and crafting Kamantcheh/Kamancha is transmitted both within families and in State-sponsored musical institutions and schools. Knowledge about the importance of the music in promoting cultural identity is transmitted from generation to generation in all strata of society in both countries.

  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:   The art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha is practised and transmitted both as an expression of vernacular culture and as a professional art. The element brings together a large community of Kamantcheh/Kamancha music lovers and listeners and continues to be a marker of cultural belonging. For many Iranians and Azerbaijanis living abroad, it represents a strong source of cultural identity. The element fully respects the principle of gender equality in both countries. Prominent masters of the instrument are included in the information concerning the bearers and practitioners. The bearers comprise craftspeople, amateur and professional performers, teachers and students belonging to different religions and ethnic groups.

R.2:   The nomination describes a single element shared by many different communities, each with their own ethnic, regional and local specificities. The inscription of an element made up of various arts (crafts, singing and music) would raise awareness about the diversity and manifold expressions of intangible cultural heritage. The inscription would also pave the way for stronger cultural ties and dialogue between both amateur and professional craftspeople and performers, who are constantly involved in a joint practice, as well as between their audiences. As a multinational nomination, the inscription of the element would inspire mutual respect among ethnic and social communities in the two countries that practise it, as well as foster new opportunities for transnational cooperation, resulting in a wider appreciation of intangible cultural heritage in general.

R.3:   In both countries, communities have undertaken various efforts to ensure the viability of the element, including through: the transmission of the crafting and performance methods, especially to family members; identification, research and documentation activities; publications, including books aimed at children, and safeguarding and raising awareness about the performing art in many regions of the respective countries. The focus on training children and women bearers is particularly noteworthy. Both submitting States Parties plan to apply the existing legislation and institutional framework to ensure the implementation of these safeguarding measures. The countries also proposed allocating funds and mobilizing sufficient human resources to this end. plan to establish a cross-border committee to monitor the effects of the possible inscription of the element. The States Parties also indicated that they wish to avoid large-scale uncontrolled production of the instrument.

R.4:   The nomination of the element was carried out at the initiative of the community, in collaboration with other stakeholders. The custodian communities, bearers and practitioners of the element of both countries have actively participated in all stages of the nomination process since 2012. The community members declared their free, prior and informed consent to the joint nomination by the two States. Coordinating efforts were made throughout the process by the non-governmental organization Iran House of Music. The two States Parties have also provided a clear statement indicating unlimited access to the element, except for copyrights related to creativity in Kamantcheh/Kamancha craftsmanship and performance.

R.5:   In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the element was included in the National Inventory List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2014. The Office for Inscriptions and Preservation and Revitalization of Intangible and Natural Heritage is responsible for maintaining the inventory, which is updated every one to three years. In Azerbaijan, the element was included in the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Azerbaijan, established by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, in 2013. The Azerbaijani Register is supervised by the Documentation and Inventory Board, which is composed of experts from the ministry, the National Academy of Sciences, researchers and non-governmental organizations. The inventory file regarding the Kamancha Crafting and Performing Art was last updated in 2015. Both States Parties demonstrated the involvement of the communities concerned in drawing up the inventories.

  1. Inscribes Art of crafting and playing with Kamantcheh/Kamancha, a bowed string musical instrument on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the States Parties for the inclusion in the safeguarding measures of a committee established to monitor the impact of the increased visibility resulting from a nomination.