“This leads to more segregation and divisions. It puts people in boxes through marketing tools, telling different target groups what is and isn’t for them based on prejudged and forced tastes, preferences and financial status; just like any other commercial product. This is exactly the opposite of what clubbing culture stands for,” he continues. “And in all this, the smaller clubs, if they aren’t wiped out, will struggle to survive. They will be — or actually are, already — more concerned about ticket sales, rents, taxes or their complaining neighbours, than putting a good programme together and fulfilling their cultural mission.”
Guiddo cites the aims of ICH inscription that would benefit techno culture in Berlin. These include lowering “obstacles and requirements for the opening and maintenance of cultural venues, meaning clubs”, an increased likelihood of administrative-level decisions around sound and safety, and the protection of specific locations, from venues to festival sites.
There are problems, though. UNESCO has little direct power, and relies on influencing governments to support the assets it recognises. Some in Berlin are sceptical about the bid, because ICH inclusion only works with political support at a national level. DJ Mag approached Berlin’s ClubCommission for comment, and while no formal statement was issued, a spokesperson described unease about the risk of “museumification”; positioning techno as an exhibition piece rather than evolving cultural force, and uncertainty at the value of the payoff, considering the work involved.
Tim Curtis, UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Secretary, spoke with us from his Paris office. He reiterates the purpose of the Convention — ensuring new generations experience inscribed elements as living culture, and encouraging more participation, development and evolution.
“A lot of it is about valorising. You could say reggae music doesn’t need valorising, but it can give people a sense that they have something really valuable — recognition on a global level that they are contributing to society and civilisation,” noting the successful 2018 bid to recognise reggae music in Jamaica.
“Belgium has one called ‘Shrimp Fishing On Horseback’. There were only a couple of people, a few families, left doing this,” he continues. “Then they inscribed it, and now there are summer schools running with people learning how to practice it, so this practice will survive now. And that’s without heavy state intervention — just a little support.”
We contacted the team behind the 2018 inscription of Jamaican reggae. Their bid demonstrated how earlier forms of music on the Caribbean island were spliced with North American, Latin and African tones, creating a sound unique to communities in Kingston, which was then embraced by a wide cross-section of society. ICH approval commitments were made, such as addressing gender imbalance in reggae culture and the industry, and using music as a means to improve social mobility and make communities more peaceful.
Unfortunately, the team behind the Jamaica bid were unable to contribute to this article because members sit on the ICH intergovernmental committee, and so could be involved in judging the Berlin case.