Great night life in Maldives with ‘Bodu Beru’

By Niuma Ugail

It so happens that Lisa from North Yorkshire, England was browsing through various holiday brochures. For her next holiday, she wants to visit an exotic place. The Maldives, of course is a place she has heard of, but never visited before. Stunning weather, pristine beaches and clear waters – that’s what comes to her mind when she thinks of the Maldives.

Then, a thought crossed her mind, “What about night life? Apart from watching the shimmering night sky and counting stars, what else can I do during evenings in a quite place like the Maldives?”

Well, your choices on pub crawling might be rather limited when you are holidaying in a remote island. However, nightlife in the Maldives is far from boring. There is a variety of options to choose from. As the saying goes, when in Rome do as Romans do, and so when you are in a remote island in the Maldives you must experience night life the Maldivian way.

In this respect, the traditional Maldivian music and dances are not to be missed. Bodu Beru, Thaara, Lagiri and Bandiya are some examples of how the locals combine traditional music with local dance moves. In particular, experiencing the famous Maldivian cultural dance of Bodu Beru is certainly a must.

Bodu Beru performers on a resort island in Maldives. PHOTO/ COCO COLLECTION

Bodu Beru in local Dhivehi language literally means the “Big Drums”. It has its origins and roots in East Africa, and therefore Bodu Beru invokes a certain type of inner feelings that one cannot explain. Historians believe that music came to the islands of the Maldives around the 11th or 12th Century AD – this is something the Africans and the Arabs passed to the islanders on their route to Asia. Like everything else, the traditional forms of this type of music and dance moves have evolved over the years and have neatly blended in with modern cultural norms.

When first seen, Bodu Beru would appear to be a mindless form of dance without any particular structure to it. However, this is far from it. In Bodu Beru, usually there are 10 to 15 people in a group. There is a lead singer who sings a traditional song and the rest sings the chorus. There are five to six drummers called Beruverin. The Beru or the drum is the main and most special instrument used in this traditional music. The drum itself is locally crafted with material readily available on the islands. For example, to craft a good drum one needs a piece of hollowed coconut wood with both ends of it covered either by manta ray or goat skin. A coir fibre wire can be tied to the wood piece which acts as a strap.

To play Bodu Beru, one would need to wear the traditional costume – usually a sarong and a white shirt. All the members in the band wear the same design of clothes. A typical Bodu Beru dance takes place on an open sandy beach where one half of the drummers will often face the other half, all standing in a row. The drum master will often sit at the centre, with a big drum giving the tempo and leading the rest of the musicians.

Tourists join in and dance during a performance of Bodu Beru. PHOTO/ KURUMBA MALDIVES

The most interesting and intriguing thing about Bodu Beru is that it gets people to stand and dance – perhaps because of its original connection to Africa! The music starts with a slow beat and in due course would lead to a hyperactive and almost to a frantic set of beats and moves. When the tempo of the music increases it naturally allows dancers to move all around in an improvised stage, in a very ample way, turning and twisting their bodies, moving their arms up and down, looking at each other or not, entering into some kind of phase that appears to be uncontrollable. The moves all come together in response to the beating of the drums. Along with the drums, dancers slowly start to sing a slow traditional Dhivehi song in a very languorous voice that progressively rise and speed up. As the song continues, the rhythm picks up and people come out of the chorus and dance to the music. As the rhythm of the drums takes on the night, the scene and the music can quickly become hypnotic. If you have the desire to invoke an inner state in you and increase the dopamine level in your brain without resorting to an illicit substance, then Bodu Beru certainly is the choice for you.

For a tourist, the traditional Bodu Beru dance is on the menu in almost all resort islands. Usually there are two to three evenings in which Bodu Beru is performed on resort islands. During those nights, guests can join the fun and are encouraged to join the chorus, singing and clapping along to the music. The Bodu Beru songs usually have rhyming words which makes it easy to follow and sing along, even if you do not understand Dhivehi. More importantly, the dance moves, surely, are easy to pick up. Besides, once you start moving to the rhythm of Bodu Beru, the “inner dancer” gets invoked, even if you have never danced before!

Note: Niuma Ugail is a Maldivian journalist currently reading for the BA in Public Relations with Journalism course at Leeds Beckett University in the UK. 

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