MALDIVES: Sissuvaali - Faruma Boduberu Group
Updated: Nov 1, 2021
Though not my favourite album, it is important, and might one day sadly serve as a legacy of this great tradition from this great nation.
When this project started, there were fears about finding albums from various countries. On some level, we never truly believed that it would be possible to find albums from Tuvalu, Liechtenstein, and especially North Korea, and once we did, I had a niggling fear, albeit slightly irrational, that something dreadful would happen to one of our nations. The nation I feared for in particular was of course the Maldives; growing up I was always warned that the world’s lowest country would soon be wiped off the map due to climate change. With most of the world’s lowest nation being less than a metre above sea level, and memories of the devastation of the 2004 tsunami not so distant, estimations of the country’s eventual disappearance are approaching day-by-day. When one considers what it means to lose an entire nation submerged under water, one cannot truly imagine the scale of what this might entail. Whilst the Maldives is the smallest country by population in Asia and thus one would, if optimistic, like to believe that the nation’s inhabitants would be welcomed into a new home. However, whilst diasporas of other people groups have always managed to maintain traditions in one way or another, the idea of losing the land from which various beautiful traditions are sourced is something I cannot really wrap my head around.
“...they manage to harness the true spirit of the Maldivian people by creating what one day might serve as a genuinely vital cultural artefact, blending equally the three regional influences.”
The Maldives has a fascinating history with a range of external influences. Though so often is the case that countries are shaped by former colonial powers, which in the case of the Maldives would be the Portuguese, Dutch, and the British, in terms of their music, the Maldives has been mostly shaped by African, Arabic, and Indian sounds. When one looks at the Maldives on the map it seems rather obvious as to why those cultures are the major musical influences over the island nation, however, in the case of other countries with similarly broad influences they are typically divided into different genres. Yet, in the case of the Faruma Boduberu Group, they manage to harness the true spirit of the Maldivian people by creating what one day might serve as a genuinely vital cultural artefact, blending equally the three regional influences.
Though I do not understand the lyrics as the band sing in Dhivehi, the group’s music may well have Islamic religious undertones to it with the band regularly performing during Eid in their homeland. The sound of prayer is particularly apparent on the start of Naaman with it’s a capella opener with sparse percussion that eventually joins it and on the eight and a half minute long Thuraa with its rather meditative start, perhaps a doffing of the cap of their Buddhist past. However, it is really the almost perfect blend between the East African style drumming and Indian pop sound that really characterises the album as Maldivian. The album uses the sound of traditional boduberu drums, native to the islands, believed to have been brought to the islands by sailors many centuries ago and relies on typical boduberu rhythms that always end with a crescendo. The party feel is apparent on every track and the sound is often totally frenetic after a carefully thought out intro. Though it must be said that most tracks sound rather similar due to following the same kind of pattern which does wear thin after a while, though there are some flourishes with the rather more primitive background noises accompanying the chants towards the end of Handhuvaru. However, whilst that might sound like a criticism, it is not to say that there isn’t one song that stands out from the crowd. Kolhigandu has a really unique party atmosphere that makes me deeply want to be in amongst them as they perform it.