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  • Aishath Aboobakr

The Fall Of Naaba - The Great Band Of Our Time

From Kula Sudha Ira, a gig where Naaba performed in early 2020.

Led by the strange, staggeringly talented, and enigmatic man Hussain Simah, Naaba took the scene by storm with their singular Boduberu-based sound.

Despite a string of thrilling live gigs, an album never materialised, and the band and its charismatic leader fell into obscurity.

He now daylights as the standup paddleboard renter @onesupguy,

When I met Simah (Uchchu), he was watching over a couple of young women using his beloved SUP in the lagoon of Thulusdhoo.

I asked him if he still played music.

‘I make time for it, you know; I am always learning,’ he speaks rapidly like he’s hot on the heels of his speedy thoughts. ‘I want to see where I can go after five or ten years, or even twenty. When someone dedicates that much of their life to something. Where do they end up?’

Hopefully not unknown and unrecognized on an island in North Male Atoll. I say this because my Gen Z sibling who introduced me to @onesupguy (the account) had no idea he was a musician. Nor had she heard of Naaba.

Now, if you spend some time with Uchchu, you would know he dances to a completely different rhumba from the rest of us. Unsurprisingly, Uchchu’s songs are driven largely by rhythm, and being a skillful drummer himself, he is fluent in our rhythmic vocabulary. His songs move and climax to the flow of our Bodu-beru beats.

Backed by this solid tradition, Uchuchu’s songwriting takes hold of modern Maldives and uproots it, exposing and tracing the network of roots and veins. His songwriting philosophy contains interesting animistic elements, our ancestral reverence of the sea in particular. The sea is our friend, our provider, our guide, and to those who are ignorant, their mortal enemy.

At their live events, it feels as though Naaba embodies this reverence, pillorying luxury tourism’s reclamation of islands. They wrote an entire song ‘Naraka Nakaiy’ or the Season from Hell, around the issue of climate change in a country that says one thing to the world and does another. Uchchu’s lyrics display an intense and passionate love of not only our linguistic but also our physical heritage.

What Naaba has accomplished, musically, is a fresh synthesis of ancient Maldivian tradition and contemporary world music elements. But of course, it isn’t world music; it is distinctly Dhivehi. Their songs open the gates that lead to the appreciation of our aural heritage. Also, Naaba’s music is arguably a distinct Dhivehi genre with bodu beru at its crux. I’ll leave it to my betters to think up a name.

What I know is that they must be heard not only by our own music-loving populace but that of the world at large. Naaba must be released from the murky depths of the internet to face the world as the mesmeric and devotedly Dhivehi songsmiths they truly are.


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