Last year, which was horrible in most aspects that mattered, nevertheless gifted us Dhivehin some very good music from our own little scene. Albums, EPs, and singles from Corallium, Aathi, Humblebakari, Fen Fulhi and others made for some excellent listening, soundtracking one of the worst years in recent history. Anyhow, we’re thankful our musos gave us a rich and varied landscape of musical styles, sensibilities, and approaches. Not all of them were serious. Some like Fen Fulhi were content to just have some fun and pay homage to their heroes. Others, like Humblebakari approached their work with religious solemnity. So, without further ado, here are our top tracks from the year past, in no order.
Digital Flock - Convergence
Digital Flock is the side-hustle of a Corallium member and Convergence is a bit of a mindfuck, to put it mildly. It features wild synths that cartwheel around a weird note that’s sustained throughout the entirety of this seven-minute track. Tribal percussion is a counterbalance to the anarchic synths, while a mysterious saxophone pops in and out with suspenseful trills. Is this the future of Maldives music? Are we witnessing its birth? It’s hard to be a pessimist and not see this as a fascinating interplay between man and machine: a stunning piece of sound sculpting if nothing else.
Aathi - Handhuvaree
It’s hard not to feel this song, which features contributions from producer Menimal/autonomotor, and a host of others (foreign so we’ll overlook them). In the track’s delicious, lushly orchestrated hook, you half expect a chorus to go ‘shalalala,’ behind Athi’s pretty vocals. Maybe it’s a crime to be this gleeful at night. But for those of you who’d like just that, here’s your nighttime companion while you fondly admire the magical, cratered face of the full moon.
Corallium - Ahura
Let us just say: what a band! And to think they’re only in their 20s. On Ahura, a complex acoustic guitar riff, complete with harmonic touches, ushers in a breezy melody sung over minimal percussion while a fretless bass makes gorgeous sliding runs. The melody is far from simple, and it builds to a breathtaking hook that seems to our ears like it shouldn’t work while easily defying this expectation – displaying a great understanding of rhythm and harmony. It’s next level stuff, so easy on the ear it feels simple yet this is so, so far from the truth it almost seems true.
Humblebakari - Vaikolhu
This song probably best encapsulates the work on the brutally spare soundtrack to anguish that is Aniyaa. The misty-eyed melody of the melodica is lent further gravity by singer KJ, whose powerful voice takes the refrain to great heights only to plunge us far into the gloom of a never-ending chasm. It’s a raw track trembling with pain – lyrically it does not pull any punches and it isn’t shy to be blunt. Vaikolhu is a song to be broken to, to lie next to in the throes of despair. Despite its solemness, it’s not one to be easily forgotten. Dare we say catchy? We dare. Fenfulhi - Local Vibes
For those of you who may not know, Fen Fulhi could be described as an LFM offshoot. Plus, it’s one of the best Dhivehi bands you haven’t heard of. Local Vibes sees them at their most ironic, self-reflexive, and experimental. Here they rock out a harmonium with a wah-wah, and sound the call to cast aside tradition, abruptly ending a beautiful bodu-beru backed passage in the song. It’s a strong track even without these antics but it’s clear that some of that trademark LFM slapstick has spilled over. Nuingigun - Seedhaa
‘Seedhaa’ is a beautiful tune, no matter how you choose to cut it. Everything’s there, the simple, full bass with its soothing harmonics, gentle brushstrokes on the drums, the wailing notes of the guitar reminding you of the Zen-inducing calls of our own bodumas in the ocean. Zain’s vocals are completely in service to the song, very little flourishes here except when he belts out seedhaa twice towards the end. And you go woah, goddamn, what a pair of lungs on the man! Awesome song from the start to the very last note on the bass. Now quick, release an album.