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Music and Dance of Maldives – Rhythms, Moves and Tunes from the Indian Ocean

Updated on March 14, 2016

The taste and preference of people are unknowingly created by the gentle and unknowing persuasions of the region. The Maldivian story of performing arts is unravelled herein.

Much of what is considered native Maldivian culture has been shaped and formed through the influences from the South Asian subcontinent. Music and dance have been no exception with distinct eastern rhythms played on undeniably eastern instruments. However, there are traces of influences from East Africa and the Middle East in their flavour of music at times. Their events are probably not as colourful as those of their closest neighbours Sri Lanka and India, but that has much to do with the prevalent cultural factors in the three countries.

The natives of Maldives speak Divehi, an Indo – Aryan language like many of the regional languages. The local songs sung in Divehi cover a spectrum of aspects of life such as love, devotion, nature, happiness and sorrow.

Bodu Beru Music

Along the beaches if you find a group of about twenty men dressed in white sarongs and white short sleeved shirts bobbing about, drumming, chanting and swaying themselves to the rhythms of their own drums and other makeshift instruments, you may be sure that you have bumped into a group that is involved in bodu beru music. It is a tradition for a few members of the group to frolic around and as the music reaches its climax; their dance moves too will become more energetic. Feel free to join them in their moves and enjoy the music with them. Even as you watch and listen to this performance you will feel that it has a distinct flair of African music as it is believed that bodu beru music is the evolved form of music learnt from sailors who dropped in to Maldives centuries ago. These music displays are spontaneous and you should be able to locate one or two on a short walk from a luxury resort in Maldives.

Dhandi Jehum Folk Dance

This folk dance is also mostly performed by a group of men who carry sticks as a prop and dance to the tunes of local songs. Each dancer prods the sticks of his counterparts with his one of his own sticks. There isn't a stipulated attire for this type of dance but usually everyone who performs, dresses in similar clothing to indicate that they are a part of the group. These performances can at times be arranged within hotel premises itself and it is best to discuss with the resort you hope to stay at. Many of the preferred locations such as the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas would have access to their own dance groups.

Bandiyaa Jehun Dance

The ladies take centre stage in long flowing skirts armed with pots, swaying to the rhythm of the music that emanates from the drums and harmonicas of the instrumentalists in their group. There is an Indian dance known as the 'Pot Dance' with which parallels are drawn, but this has been localized and then modernized over the years that the similarities are not necessarily apparent.

Gaa Odi Lava Folk Music

Manual labour is draining, music is one way to relieve oneself of the exhaustion and historical narrations from the land of Maldives show that Gaa Odia Lava Folk Music came into being as a result of workmen wanting to celebrate the completion of tasks bestowed upon their shoulders by the sultan. Though manual labour is not as difficult as it may have been many years ago, the cheer brought about through these performances have not dwindled at all.

Bolimalaafath Neshun Folk Dance

Prior to becoming a republic, Maldives was a monarch and it was tradition to offer gifts to the sultan. The gifts were usually shells collected and preserved in intricately created vases and then presented in baskets while performing a dance routine. The ladies of Maldives would engage in this act during festive seasons. While the tradition of presenting gifts to the ruler has been discontinued, the performances have stayed on.

Thaara Folk Music

From its tunes, lyrics and vibes it is believed that Thaara Folk Music would have been introduced to Maldives by Arabs. In ancient times, the thaara songs were sung in Arab, but as time passed and Maldivians established Divehi as their own language, lyricists began to compose thaara songs in the native language as well. These are sung mostly out of veneration and are used when fulfilling vows. The performances usually take place in large groups like most other Maldivian music and dance displays. The performers dress in white sarongs and shirts and use a green shawl around their neck.


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