The sounds we associate with the Maldives are usually the crashing waves of the ocean and the sound of underwater bubbles as divers explore the reefs. The Maldives has a serene natural environment in which most of its “wildlife” intimidate not with a roar but with size, stealth and speed. Scuba divers are often engulfed in relative silence when exploring the reefs. So above water, what sounds make the environment lively?
Maldivian music is an element that livens up the land or boat deck atmosphere. There are traditional and more modern forms of music that resonate in the islands. And there are also performances for tourists at some resorts. In such a secluded nation, it’s interesting to see where the musical influences come from and how are they practiced. New international music is also inspires visitors to remember the tranquility of the Maldives.
The most popular form of traditional music in the Maldives is called boduberu. It’s a drum and dance music with lots of energy. A lead singer and 3 percussionists create a visual and audio experience that starts slow and builds up to an intense crescendo. Generally this is performed by male musicians. This music from the country’s northern atolls is said to have its beginnings in the 11th century, with influences from East African origins. The percussion can also include a bell and a bamboo onugandu stick. The drum is the most popular instrument in the Maldives.
More modern popular music links the Maldives to its Asian neighbour, India. The 60s and 70s in the Maldives was an era influenced musically by Hindi songs. The Maldivian language is similar to northern India dialects so people connected with this music and it was played over the radio in the Maldives. Nowadays, popular music is based on Hindi songs, and influences can be heard in some songs.
Some instruments have been adapted into Maldivian music from India as well, including something called the bubul tarang, for bulbul music.
The surrounding continents have left their mark on Maldivian music, including Africa, Asia and Arab regions. What is going on within the nation also influences music. Like all other forms of music, daily life works its way into music as a form of expression. It is used to express political views and religious devotion. Also, music is used for celebration and to mark special events.
In the past there was music performed to celebrate the sultan and mark the end of work. Some performances are by men and others by women and there is usually a format to the way they arrange themselves. It can be in a line or two lines facing each other. It can take on various forms but usually has a form or structure that is followed by the performers.
The unique language and secluded nature of the country makes modern music of the Maldives a more localised affair. There are Maldivian artists who have released albums but they have not achieved great popularity on the world stage.
One of the most popular in the region is the Dhivehi band called Zero Degree Atoll. The lead singer, Ahmed Nasheed, now also makes his own music, his album is called Dhaalu Raa.
Music inspired by the Maldives
From a different perspective, there is also music that is inspired by the Maldives, though cannot be said to be Maldivian in nature. The isolated tranquility of the island atmosphere inspires sentiments in those who visit the country from abroad. Coming from busy, fast-paced urban environments, foreigners yearn for sounds of relaxation and sounds that awaken the senses.
Music can allow people to relive moments through music, to create memories and even to travel without leaving home. To capture the Maldives in music from an outsider’s perspective, that is what music like this seems to:
If you’re inspired to listen to more of the music Maldivians listen to you can access some of the Maldives radio broadcasts online. Or just relax to sounds that allude to the idyllic essence of the oceanic islands. Music is part of the culture and is a lively part of the above water experience in the Maldives. On the other hand, the near silence that can be heard when standing on a lone sandbank or when diving around the reefs is perfect contrast and escape for urban-dwellers that visit the Maldives.
Experience the musical and silent atmospheres first hand this May on MV Orion or MV Virgo on one of their last minute deals. Then, let the sights and sounds of the Maldives resonate with you for months to come.