The music starts to play in a slow rhythm and people dance to it as it spreads over the entire surrounding. A group of men play their music and dance energetically on the floor dedicated for them. The music moves in rapid cadence as the people too hasten up their dance moves. The shirtless performers are seen from far away with sweat that glisten their skin in the light. They sway their average-built bodies back and forth, then sideways, while beating decorated hand drums, which are known as Thaara.

Maldives is not just admired for its natural beauty, but it is also known for its fabulous dances and music. The people of Maldives have enjoyed their own forms of music and dance for centuries. Although some types of dances are especially performed by women, both genders participate in most of the traditional dances.

The Maldives, being a sea-faring island nation, has been open to different cultural influences. Such influences, especially from maritime cultures of countries such as east Africa, southern India, the Arab world, Malaysia and Indonesia, are clearly found in the Maldivian music and dance. But centuries of environmental and social transformations have created a mix which expresses the lifestyle of Maldivians.

Boduberu – literally translated as ‘big drum’ – is the most lively and popular form of indigenous music and dance performed by Maldivians today. It is unlikely to miss a Boduberu performance in any function or festival on a visit to one of the islands of the Maldives. The Boduberu is enjoyed by both men and women of all age groups. A Boduberu troupe usually consists of a lead singer, three drummers and a chorus of 10-15 singers. The drums are made from hollowed coconut wood and covered on both ends with manta ray skin or goat hide.

Although it is originally not from Maldives, Maldivians have used Thaara music in their cultural entertainment activities since the 17th century. A performance of this form of music involves a group of 22 people sitting parallel, facing each other and beating tambourines. The uniqueness of this folk music is that only men are allowed to perform. Thaara music was traditionally performed to present vows, and the songs were sung in Arabic language. 

Bandiyaa Jehun, a traditional dance performed exclusively by women, is considered as an adaptation of Indian pot dance. In Bandiyaa Jehun, women carrying metal water pots, which are locally known as Bandiyaa, stand in two lines facing each. They sing and dance to melodious tunes while tapping on the pots with rings worn on their fingers. The music and costume, however, have undergone considerable transformations over the years with most of the groups now using a number of musical instruments, including drum and harmonica.

Fathigandu Jehun is an evening stage music in which a group of men dance in tune with the songs. To bring out the music, two pieces of bamboo stick are clapped together. There is a drummer who beats on a tin while leading the song. The dancers also show their skills by twisting their torso to the tune of the music and song.

Music and dance have always played a prominent role in Maldivian culture and in all types of local festivities. Like the country’s rich, colourful and vibrant culture, the traditional music and song performed and enjoyed by the locals today are inherited from their ancestors and passed down from generation to generation. Visit one of the inhabited islands of the Maldives during the festive season, enjoy the local environment and immerse yourself in the unique musical tastes of the island paradise.