DUBLIN – The president of Ireland celebrated on Thursday UNESCO’s decision to include the Irish bagpipes on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Also known as Uilleann Piping, it is a distinctive Irish musical art form, predating another Emerald island icon, Guinness, as the Gaelic instrument dates back to an instrument introduced in the 1740s known as the “Irish Pipes.”
In a statement issued by the office of the uachtarán, or president of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, said the recognition of Uilleann Piping was both an honor and a “valuable recognition of the skills, imagination, creativity and importance of those who make, restore and play.”
Higgins said the music and craftwork of Ireland “connect us in profound ways, weaving together cultural memory and contemporary vision.”
Hours before, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage convened on South Korea’s Jeju island where it ratified a decision to feature Uilleann Piping on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“As a result, the distinctive Irish musical art-form joins such other cultural expressions as the Argentinian Tango, the Armenian Duduk and its music, and the Baul songs of Bangladesh,” said a UNESCO statement.
Irish Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking regions), Josepha Madigan welcomed the announcement, saying the decision was “a testament to the community of Uilleann Pipers across the country who, since the 1960s, have succeeded in their mission to stop the decline in the playing and making of the uilleann pipes.”
Relatives of other Gaelic bagpipes, such as the Scottish bagpipes or Spain’s Galician “gaita,” Uilleann Pipes – which literally means “elbow pipes” – are played in a sitting position and by pushing the air with the elbow.
The Irish pipes are considered the most complex bagpipe that can be played and the sophisticated instrument provides more musical possibilities than any other bagpipe thanks to its three different streams of sound.
Uilleann Piping declined in the 19th century but was successfully revived in the 20th.
It has become a central instrument in the world of Celtic music where bands like “The Chieftains” or Galician bagpiper Carlos Nuñez have played them live on stage.