Ahmed Nasheed Reveals the Vibrant Sounds of the Maldives

Ahmed - Dhaalu Raa
Ahmed – Dhaalu Raa

Dhaalu Raa (Asasi Records, 2014)

With his debut album Dhaalu Raa, Ahmed Nasheed will transport you to the exotic Maldives in the Indian Ocean, located 400 miles from the Indian coast. Dhaalu Raa features the melodies and rhythms of the islands, presented for the first time to a worldwide audience.

One of the typical instruments is the log drum. The drums provide the formidable beat that accompanies Ahmed’s guitars, fusing the musics of the West, the Indian Ocean and the melodies of the East.

I’m from the ‘60s,” explains Ahmed Nasheed. “I love the Beatles, I love Pink Floyd. I grew up with that classic rock, it’s part of me.” His melodies are based on rairvaru variants, the long poetic songs that are the essence of folk music of the Maldives. “They differ a little from island to island,” he notes, “and at times they’re very similar to music from Sri Lanka or India.”

Ahmed’s former band, Zero Degree Atoll, was the most popular ever to come from the Maldives. They played in Switzerland and Germany, as well as a huge concert in Male, the capital of the Maldives. For their trailblazing 1990 release, Dhoni, the members traveled to the islands that make up the Maldives, recording folk tunes and natural sounds. “After that we sampled them and made them part of the rhythm and the melodies,” Ahmed says.

Dhoni was the first album of original Maldives music and took nearly four years to complete. The only recording workspace on the islands was a two-track studio at the government-run radio station. Through friends, Zero Degree Atoll eventually acquired an eight-track recorder and a synthesizer to use for sampling.

Getting exposure for Dhoni wasn’t easy. The government thought the band supported the opposition so Zero Degree Atoll received no media exposure. They had to take a grassroots marketing strategy, selling the record in the tourist resorts and relying on word of mouth and concerts. As Dhoni was about to be officially released, Ahmed moved to England to study software engineering. But he never stopped composing music. “I studied and composed. Music would come to me all the time, when I was walking or taking the Tube. Just basic melodies, but I put them all down. I looked through them all later when I began writing Dhaalu Raa. So it’s music written over a long period, different styles and moods. My wife wrote the last song, “Sheyvaa.”

Ahmed’s mix of Maldives traditional music, Indian influences and rock comes with a social message in his native language Dhivehi, where he protests the treatment of women and raises his concern about the environment. The Maldives are in danger of disappearing due to an increase in sea levels.

Buy Dhaalu Raa

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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