If I had to make a list of my favorite Maldivian musicians, Aathi would be ranked pretty high. Her music, tinged in nostalgia, reminds me of a time long gone in Male’, a time where I would have been yet to be born. She has her own style of music that dips its toes in Maldivian culture, some of them bearing a touch of ‘Koosani’-ness. Whimsical and raw, Aathi invites us with a slight tremble in her voice, to a world of her own with each of her songs.
This playlist however, is based on 5 songs that had an impact on her life.
1. Bird on the Wire – Leonard Cohen
“I can tell you a little story about this song. Recently, for a while I couldn’t play my guitar because a string had snapped. And during this time out of the blue I had a feeling, a very distinctive one, I even felt tightness in different parts of my body. It was weird and for a while I pondered it, and it hit me that this was the feeling of ‘Bird on the Wire’. I play it a lot on my guitar, I mean sing it while playing my guitar, and that whole thing was probably me just missing that. It was pretty cool; that my body can remember a song without hearing it and even without me thinking about it.
I like the slowness of the song. It’s even slower than a very lazy stroll, and Leonard takes his time, enunciating every single word. And Leonard had written such beautiful lines; ‘like a baby stillborn, like a beast with its horns’, I’ve had my share of darkness, so a lot of it resonates with me and speaks to me. As for that feeling I had, I can’t quite pinpoint it, but if I had to, I’d say it’s sweet and kind of melancholic, like a mist or a fog.”
2. The Body Breaks – Devendra Banhart
“The first song I listened to by Devendra Banhart is ‘Insect Eyes’ and the first thought I had was ‘who the heck is this’? So obviously I played another one, and that one was The Body Breaks’ and I was hooked. The song struck me as so fresh and crisp almost ethereal yet so familiar.
Devendra can come off as really goofy sometimes that I’m even hesitant to introduce his music to people. But at times he can be quite meaningful and even magnificent in his own way, at least to me. And the thing about this whole Devendra thing is that I used to feel aimless regarding music, I wasn’t so sure about what it is that I should be doing. I was working as a musician, going to resorts and doing the whole music thing, but I continuously kept feeling that something wasn’t right and that I was doing something wrong. I kept on playing solely because I thought that was what I was supposed to be doing. However that night in 2007 as I sat on my bed listening to ‘The Body Breaks’ for the first time, something inside me began to grow and after a while I started becoming clear headed, at least about music. I started becoming surer about what I wanted and the old feeling of wrongness began to slowly disappear. That night while listening to the song, I think what actually began to grow was a little seedling of a thought that said ‘I’m alright.’”
3. My Back Pages – Bob Dylan
“I used to listen to My Back Pages a lot when I was younger, but I couldn’t really relate to it back then, and I was often curious about what the song meant. I used to have very strong opinions, I was quick to point the finger and say that’s wrong, this is right. But as I progressed into my 30s the black and white filter that I looked at the world through started blending into grey. I came to the realization that perception plays a huge role in how I see things, and that a lot of things vary given the context or situation.
During this whole process the words of this song kept coming back to me from time to time, and I started relating to it. Gradually, lines like, ‘’Equality’ I spoke the word as if a wedding vow’, ‘Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now’ began to make a lot of sense to me. So probably this song for me is about losing that “life is black and white” perspective, I’m not sure if that’s what the song is really about, but that’s is how I see it.”
4. Isweg Attay – Tinariwen
“These guys are musicians belonging to the Tuareg ethnic confederation, and I’ve heard they were revolutionaries before they started playing music. When I first heard their music, it felt as though I were already familiar with them, their sounds, their words, and even the way they looked. They are from the Mali region of the Sahara Desert; and at the start of their gigs they would often greet the audience with the phrase ‘Welcome to the desert’. And my relationship with this song has a lot to do with the vast and barren landscapes of the deserts. When I listen to it, it feels as though a space has opened inside me, vast and empty, like a desert, with so much space to breathe and even move, feel and think freely, and lots and lots of peace, stillness and possibilities.
There’s a line in this song that translates to ‘I drank a glass of tea that scorched my heart first,’ I really like that line. The video of the song shows them making and drinking tea in the ritualistic Tuareg fashion and I just loved it. And seeing that made me develop a thing for tea, sort of made having a cup of tea feel special.”
5. Jah Kas Cool Boy – Lo'jo & Django
“This song was played only once, at a festival, and that was just it. But every time I hear it, the song just pulls me into an experience of elation; it’s so intense and uplifting. It makes me feel happy and excited.
I love it that the instruments keep playing the same little loop over and over again for most parts of the song while the vocals are to me just mesmerising; the energy, the strength and the lack of inhibition. And Django is just so committed to the song, if you look at the video you’ll see him nail a note and then jump up and down in celebration. I actually have no idea what the song is actually about but for me it’s probably about what freedom could sound like, one of the more ecstatic ways it could sound like.”