Humblebakari teamed up with Fenfulhi to release an 8-track album, Rulhi, that recalls and celebrates the alternative rock culture of the 90s. It’s an enjoyable listen, and what the band lacks in precision, it makes up for in (often explosive) energy.
The two artists are kindred souls obsessed with making raw, unfiltered music informed by the bluntness and rebellion of punk and mixed with a fondness for goofing around.
In the opener ‘Fathun’, the simple riff accompanies equally unassuming, plainspoken lyrics about how rumours do the rounds in our small community. The track stomps onwards via Shahaaim's four-four drumming while Stormy’s bass accents every beat, creating depth and urgency. Later, Baiskoafu collaborator Amy finds some space to inject a radio-style vaahaka in the middle of the track – a move that recalls LFM. It’s a good start that sets the stage for the rest of the album.
Akunbakun is a dirty, bluesy number which sees Humblebakari whip up the memorable line: ‘e kanfathun mi kanfathah, e kiss kuree mi thunfathah’. Shamin brings the sludgy chorus to life with treated, melodic vocals, while his guitar solo seems an obvious a nod towards the late Cobain – discordant, distorted, feedback friendly.
The title track Rulhi could fit right in on a Violet Addiction record. It’s a dark, violent song with Humblebakari presenting the body as the contested site and battleground of powerful emotions and urges. The track conjures the suffering of heroin addicts, very much a staple of the Dhivehi music scene of the 90s and early 2000s. It channels that pitch black energy with its slow, grimy groove, driving home the brutal descriptions of torment of the body and spirit.
Meanwhile, Sarukaaru, is a more straightforward anthem, with a catchy bridge that swells into a grand, radio-friendly hook. It concludes with the swearing-in of a military squad, who takes an oath to defend the nation (rather government) from enemies within with their very lives. This is arguably the album’s most chilling track, as we have all witnessed those gruesome acts of police violence in Yameen’s and Waheed’s regimes, and before that, the rampant and state-sanctioned torture in the prisons during the Maumoon years that culminated in the death of Evan Naseem.
And a problematic Mudhim also makes an appearance as the subject of a song – his desires are best unmentioned but be assured their expression would guarantee any adult of sound mind serious prison time. Musically, the song bears some kinship with Nirvana’s earlier material, although the addition of keys and a delicate instrumental interlude in the middle make this a bit more experimental, alluding to the breaks in LFM songs.
The acoustic ‘ballad’ Gaumattakaa recalls Humblebakari’s Aniyaa album from earlier this year. The narrative of the song is defiantly light-hearted, mocking what people claim they do ‘for the sake of the nation/gaum’. It has an easy flow – think Velvet Underground/Lou Reed and invites listeners to sing along. It’s arguably the standout track of the album for it captures almost everything good about this record – the intense light-heartedness, the tongue-in-cheek digs at society and at oneself, and the scorn towards the great illness of our time: nationalism.
So then, this effort should be seen for what it is: two bands (friends all) teaming up, reminiscing and bringing back the good (and bad) times through a musical leap into the past. The mistakes and slipups make this album raw, immediate, and human. It’s full of an infectious, visceral energy which a live performance would translate to any receptive crowd. It may not be a great album (and this is clearly not their intention) but Rulhi is still a valuable contribution to our sonic landscape. That is beyond question.
PS. The album cover art is pretty funky and done by the wacky @kreative_salad https://www.instagram.com/kreative_salad/