The United Nations has placed Lithuania's unique polyphonic folk songs called sutartines on a UNESCO heritage list, highlighting the Baltic nation's drive to preserve the traditional art.

"We rejoice at this event as it is important both to Lithuanian and world culture," Gintare Tamasauskaite of Lithuania's National Commission for UNESCO told AFP Wednesday.

The UN agency placed sutartines on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity a day earlier, along with some 50 other cultural practices including French cuisine, Spanish flamenco music, Mexican traditional cuisine and Croatian gingerbread.

Sutartines are polyphonic rhythmical songs performed by two, three or four female singers who simultaneously sing different phrases, creating complex harmonies.

Experts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in Kenya this week praised sutartines for providing "a feeling of cultural identity, continuity and self-esteem."

With the root of their name in the Lithuanian word "sutarti", meaning "to be in concordance", the harmonies in sutartines are completely unique although songs with some similarities can be found in the Balkans, Indonesia and African folk songs, Lithuanian academic Daiva Vyciniene told AFP.

In 2003, UNESCO added massive Baltic song and dance celebrations in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to its list.