MALDIVIAN MUSIC : AN HISTORY OF DRUMS, EVIL SPIRITS AND SULTANS

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Music plays a very important role in the Maldivian society and was mainly influenced by Indian, East African, and Arab culture. Maldivian music is also closely linked to Maldivian beliefs, tales, history and everyday life.

Here is a list of some of the most popular types of music in the Maldives:

BODUBERU:

Boduberu is probably the most famous  form of music and dance in the Maldives. This music and dance is enjoyed by the entire Maldivian population, young, old , women, men .

Every local island has his own Boduberu band. All these bands regularly contest and perform during festival, religious celebrations or special events.

Bodu Beru means big drum. A boduberu band is usually composed of 20 people including minimum 3 drummers and a lead singer. They are always accompanied by a bell and a small bamboo stick with horizontal grooves called onugandu which produces a sound by scraping.

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Boduberu members dancing on Baros beach

Boduberu songs usually starts with a slow tempo, which will accelerates crescendo to finally reach a frenetic beat putting the dancers and the musicians into trance .

The crowd surrounding the performers will clap, shout and eventually join the band in a frantic and exhausting dance .

Boduberu songs can be about everyday life, love, tales from the past but also can also use only onomatopes  and meaningless words.

Performers are usually dressed with the Maldivian sarong, a white” turban” covering their head, a white shirt and barefoot.

 

BANDIYAA  JEHUN :

A dance probably inspired by the  Indian pot dance and danced by women. Women dance and sing  to the tune of the music. While they sing they tap the metal water pot (Bandiyaa) with their metal rings .

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Bandiyaa Jehun dance

 

GAA ODI LAVA

Gaa Odi Lava is a music and dance performance performed after the completion of a task involving difficult manual work.   Origin of this dance can be traced back during the reign of Sultan Mohamed Imadudeen I (1620-1648AD)

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Gaa Odi Lava celebration in Holhudu Island 1991

During sultan’s time, whenever a job ordered by a Sultan was completed, the workers would walk in front of the royal palace, in a special manner called “Dhigu magu negun”. In this type of walking, the dancers each carry a special stick and walk in two rows while singing and dancing. When in front of the palace, the beat songs gradually increase until the workers form a circle around a container, still continuing the dancing and singing.

Inside the container were presents for the dancers, given by the Sultan. The taking away of the container is called “Dhafi Negun” which is also the purpose of the dance . In the olden days, the Gaa Odi Lava songs were in Arabic.

THAARA JEHUN :

Thaara jehun is performed by 22 people seated in two rows facing each other. Only men are allowed to perform this folk song.

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Students performing Thaara Jehun

It is a semi religious music which begins slowly and just like the Bodu beru will reach a frantic tempo towards the end.

Thaara is the Divehi word for tambourine, it is said to have been introduced in Maldives by Arabs merchants during the 17th century.  Nowadays a similar type of music is still played in Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia.

KADHAA MAALI

This dance only survives in Kulhudhuffushi in south Thiladhunmathi Atoll and is performed with several drums and a Kadhaa ( an instrument made of copper plate and rodes ).

Kadhaa Maali

Participants dressed like “evil spirits”

All participants, men only,  are dressed and costumed in evil spirits or ghosts called “maali”.

Kaadhaa Maali is also performed by the elders who will walk around the island at night for three days in order to guard the island and the houses from the evil spirits.

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Big Fish ( Bodu Mas ) made of leaves

DHANDI JEHUN :

30 men usually participate in this dance. The performance and the dance style vary from island to island.

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Dhandi Jehun dancers

A lead singer who usually sings “Thaara” or “Unbaa”songs is accompanied by a group of men singing, dancing and performing choreography to the beat of the song.

Each dancer holds a bamboo stick and claps it with the one belonging to his partner in front of him while simultaneously dancing and singing.

 

Above is a non exhaustive list of Maldivian musics and dances examples. There are much more music genres to discover in the country of the 1200 coral islands ! Up to you now to visit Maldives and discover the Maldivian rich culture !

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