Like much of the culture of the Maldives, its musical roots are tied to India, East Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. Because of their cultural similarities between the Maldives and northern India, many Maldivians listen to Hindi film songs and other popular Hindi songs. Many times, they take these songs and change it slightly to make it their own.
And many of the musical styles are strongly tied to their dance traditions. Probably the most widely known musical form here is called boduberu, which is more popular in the northern atolls. Having its origins in East African music traditions, boduberu is a type of dance music. This type of music includes a lead singer, three percussionists, a bell player, and an onugandu player (an onugandu is a bamboo stick with grooves carved in it). It typically starts out slow and gradually gains momentum to a frenetic dance craze. While the lyrics can be on a variety of subjects, it also can just include nonsense syllables as well (called vocables).
Thaara music is a type of ensemble consisting of 22 men who sit in two rows facing each other. This type of music is said to have stemmed from Arabs who traveled to the islands. Thaara music tends to be a little more religious in nature.
There are a variety of other types of dances for women and men. As far as I can tell, there is not any intermixing of dancers. Some of the dances include props, such as flowers or bamboo sticks or costumes. Some dances and songs show homage to the country and/or sultan or present the sultan with gifts.
Granted, a lot of the music on the smaller islands tends to be a little more traditional, but music in the larger cities, like Malé, is influenced by a number of other musical styles from all over Asia and the West. One of the first major bands to come out of the Maldives was Zero Degree Atoll, producing three albums since 1987. Their style is kind of like soft rock mixed with world beat mixed with Kenny G (only because it prominently features a saxophone), and a little bit of blues. One of the band’s members, Nashid, produced a solo blues album called Bird in Flight that my husband and I love. In fact, he told me to go ahead and download it for Mother’s Day, especially since it was only $8.91 on iTunes. If you like a B.B. King style blues, you’d like this. I love it! (And this song is apparently in 11/8 time.)
Oddly enough, there are several metal bands that are based out of the Maldives. One screaming band is Nothnegal. Their instrumentals were pretty tight, though. Sacred Legacy is another band that falls under the same category: very much of a death metal sound.
A band that I listened to that is now one of my new favorite bands is called Fasylive. I’m not even sure how to pronounce it exactly (is the last part live as in “life your life” or is it live like “live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”). I suppose it doesn’t matter so much. They remind me a little of early Metallica at times, and sometimes they sound a little like Eddie Van Halen. This is another one that I play with the windows down in the car. Seriously, these guys are great.
There aren’t too many hip-hop artists from the Maldives, but I did find a reference to the first Maldivian hip-hop album to come out, entitled Magumathi (I found it on YouTube). I’m not exactly sure if this is the name of the album or group (maybe it’s self-titled?). But I like it, though. I also came across a trio who seems to often perform together: Edil, Pest & Bey (or some combination of two or three). They had several songs I found on YouTube. Their music is pretty catchy. I liked what I heard for the most part.
Up next: the food