Dance Trance

Mu­sic in the Mal­dives has an im­por­tant place in lo­cal cul­ture and adds colour to the di­ver­sity of the land.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Mu­kee Bano

Have you ever been to the Mal­dives on a hol­i­day? You must have en­joyed Bodu Beru dur­ing your visit. It is played in the night in al­most all tourist re­sorts along with a de­li­cious lo­cal din­ner. Bodu Beru mu­sic ba­si­cally orig­i­nated from East Africa and is a re­mem­brance of the Mal­dives’s multi-eth­ni­cal in­flu­ences from Africa. The ex­act time of its ar­rival in the Mal­dives is still known but it is be­lieved that the tra­di­tion was in­tro­duced by the Africans in the eleventh or twelfth cen­tury. These Africans were brought to the Mal­dives as slaves by the royal fam­ily. Later they were freed and set­tled in the coun­try where they left a pow­er­ful mu­si­cal im­pact. The tra­di­tion has sur­vived for cen­turies.

The lit­eral mean­ing of Bodu Beru is “Big Drums” in Dhivehi (lo­cal lan­guage). Bodu means big and beru means drums. In­stru­ments used in

Bodu Beru mu­sic con­sist of three or four drums and few other mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. The drums are made from co­conut wood or goat skin. The heads are tight­ened to gen­er­ate good beat and to en­hance the qual­ity of the sound. Ev­ery lo­cal is­land has its own Bodu Beru band. They reg­u­larly con­test with each other and per­form at fes­ti­vals, re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tions and spe­cial events.

Bodu Beru is ac­tu­ally is a dance song which starts at a slow tempo and leads to an ex­cit­ing wild beat. It is per­formed in a large group of fif­teen to twenty per­sons and in­cludes a singer, at least 3 drum­mers and dancers. The singer chants the lyrics and a cho­rus fol­lows as they clap to the sound of the drums. The drum mas­ter sits in the cen­tre and holds a big drum. The drum­mer plays the mu­sic and di­rects the rest of the mu­si­cians.

Dancers move all around an im­pro­vised stage. At the same time they turn and twist their bod­ies. They fur­ther shift their arms up and en­ter some kind of a trance. Their steps come to­gether in re­sponse to the bang­ing of the drums. Along with the drums, dancers slowly start to sing a slow Dhivehi song in gen­tle vo­cals that pro­gres­sively rise in pitch and the speeds in­creases. The lyrics are gen­er­ally based on sto­ries and tales of fishermen as well as love and life mo­ments of the Mal­di­vians.

Dur­ing the fes­tive nights, the mu­sic groups some­times sing an­cient and folk as well as con­tem­po­rary songs. There is no spe­cific age group for the par­tic­i­pants. How­ever, the songs are usu­ally pre­sented by men. Per­form­ers are dressed up in the na­tional dress called sarong, a white tur­ban cover­ing their head, a white shirt and they are bare­foot. With the in­crease in rhythm, a crowd sur­rounds the per­form­ers. They clap, shout and even­tu­ally join the band in a calm and lib­er­at­ing dance. The songs also re­flect the emo­tions, de­sires and dreams of the present gen­er­a­tion.

The im­pres­sive Big Drums are widely played every­where on the is­lands and can of­ten be heard from far away from is­land to is­land. In the Mal­di­vian so­ci­ety, mu­sic has a sig­nif­i­cant role and is mainly in­spired by In­dian, East African and Arab civ­i­liza­tion. The Mal­di­vian mu­sic is also closely linked to the coun­try’s be­liefs, tales, his­tory and or­di­nary life. Bodu Beru is prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lar form of mu­sic and it is en­joyed by ev­ery­one.

Mean­ing awe­some in English, “Habeys” is a well-known band play­ing Bodu Beru mu­sic in the Mal­dives. It was formed in 2011 by a group of friends. Ini­tially, the band had seven mem­bers but it now con­sists of twenty seven. It has be­come the most pop­u­lar band in the Mal­dives and rep­re­sented Mal­di­vian mu­sic at the World Mu­sic Day Fes­ti­val in 2012 and 2013. “Jinni” was the first Bodu Beru al­bum to be re­leased in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Other tra­di­tional and pop­u­lar forms of mu­sic in the Mal­dives in­clude Tharra, Gaa Odi Lava, Dhandi Je­hun, Bandiyaa Je­hun and many oth­ers. Thaara is semi-re­li­gious mu­sic and is per­formed by 22 males. The mu­sic is also played in some of the Gulf coun­tries. Gaa Odi Lava is a spe­cial type of mu­sic per­formed by labour­ers af­ter they fin­ish work. It was in­tro­duced dur­ing the reign of Sul­tan Mo­hamed Imadudeen I who reigned from 1620 to 1628.

Dhandi Je­hun is a pop­u­lar dance form. It con­sists of a group of thirty men and a lead singer. The singer usu­ally presents Thaara songs while the oth­ers sing in cho­rus and also dance. In this folk dance show, each per­former holds three sticks called dhandi.

Bandiyaa Je­hun is done by women. The Mal­di­vians feel some close­ness with the North­ern In­di­ans through their lan­guage. Most of the peo­ple in the Mal­dives watch Hindi films and lis­ten to In­dian songs. Western pop and In­dian mu­sic are also be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar among young Mal­di­vians.

Across the Mal­dives, when­ever there is a spe­cial event, a wed­ding, a suc­cess­ful fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion or Eid cel­e­bra­tions – Bodu Beru can be heard from a long dis­tance. The mu­sic is en­joyed by ev­ery tourist who vis­its the Mal­dives.

The writer is a free-lance jour­nal­ist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.