All the world’s a stage: Maldivian death metal band beats the odds and goes global

Death metal is the genre, Maldivian is the nationality – not the best odds for making it on the world music stage. However Nothnegal, a band of determined and passionate young Maldivians, have beaten the odds and are getting ready to perform at twenty different venues across Europe.

The band of young Maldivians Hilarl, Fufu, Avo, and Battery have been signed by Season of Mist, one of the biggest labels on the death metal music scene, who count music monolith EMI as a distributor.

They are going to open for Fintroll, one of the biggest bands on the contemporary metal scene, on their European tour. Starting from Europe, the band will perform gigs in various cities across Germany, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Hungrary, Slovenia, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Their tour will conclude at the O2 Academy in the UK, supporting Fear Factory, a gold-selling band which tops the death metal scene. For band members it is a sweet success – Fear Factory is one of the first death metal bands they ever listened to.

“They were our heroes, and now we are doing support for them,” Hilarl, the lead guitarist and composer, told Minivan News. He feels the same about Arch Enemy, which they supported in July at Rockstorm in Male’.

Nothnegal started their career doing covers of Arch Enemy in 2006. Within four years, Nothnegal were their supporting act, an astonishing transformation by any standard.

Banging heads against a wall of prejudice

Nothnegal’s journey into big time has been difficult. The genre itself is a tough one in which to make it on the world scene. Being Maldivian has made it doubly-hard where musicians have to overcome not just the non-mainstream nature of the genre but also lack of support for music and youth as a whole.

“You are not a Maldivian band”, Nothnegal was once told by a local television station, which refused to give it any coverage. “You do not sing in Dhivehi”, was the reason given for their ‘un-Maldivianness’.

Without any institutional support to encourage the music scene in the Maldives, band members had to go to wealthy members of society with out-stretched hands, asking for sponsorship.

“It is a very subjective process – people fund what they are themselves into. If the head of a company likes football, football is the only activity that company will support”.

Even when a potential sponsor did like music, it was hard to find someone who had time for a death metal band. “It is easier for those who mime, or those who cover Bollywood music, to find sponsorship. Original work gets sidelined, because people are not prepared to listen,” Hilarl said.

They met Minivan News with a photocopy of their record label contract in hand, apparently a document demanded as “proof” by journalists.

“When we meet the media, they ask us to bring ‘valid documents’. They do not believe that we have a record deal”.

The general prejudice against youth manifested mostly in potential sponsors’ aversion to the length of band members’ hair, almost a must on the death metal scene. In Maldivian society, a ‘sure sign’ of a life wasted on drugs.

Nothnegal found an exception in Maaji (with Nothnegal people do not have surnames) of Le Cute, a businessman with a passion for music who looked beyond the long hair and the negative perceptions, to encourage and support Nothnegal. “Without him we would not have made it,” Avo and Hilarl were both keen to emphasise.

There were a small band of others who helped Nothnegal for nothing more than the love of music and belief in the band. Shamheed who did all the artwork and a soon to be released video for the song “Web of deceit”, Muhaa who did the photography, and Kudoo who does all the local promotion work, are people that the band wants desperately to thank.

A solo act

For the rest of the journey, they walked alone. Their last album, “Antidote of Realism”, was produced after many a sleepless night in a studio, which a friend had let them use for free. All of them were working, some holding down full-time jobs.

“Avo would come to the studio straight after work. He would stay up all night, sleeping for only an hour before going to work the next morning,” Hilarl said. They paid close to Rf70,000 (US$5500) for the album’s production in Finland out of their own money.

It was worth it.

“Antidote to Realism”, which they released on the internet, got Nothnegal noticed by the world death metal scene. It is also got them their new drummer – American Kevin Talley, and Finn Marco Sneck.

Both are big names in the world of death metal worldwide, and both wanted to join Nothnegal because their music is good. Greg Reely, a Canadian record producer who has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Coldplay and Fear Factory, is going to work on their next album.

Even the global recognition, however, has not been enough to get them noticed within the Maldives itself.

“We are still waiting to meet the Youth Minister [Hassan Latheef]. We asked for an appointment a long time ago. We are not even sure if he got the message,” Avo said.

Being left in the cold by the Youth Minister, however, is not the most pressing issue for Nothnegal right now. They have other, more important – again, uniquely Maldivian – problems to worry about, such as finding the right clothes to wear for the middle of winter in Europe.

“Not an easy task in the Maldives,” where wool is harder to find than even foreign currency. Nothnegal are in the process of procuring winter gear on e-Bay, and are hoping that it will get here on time before they leave.

Even wrapped up in wool, ready for a harsh European winter, Nothnegal remains Maldivian through and through.

Their new album, which they have just completed writing after a year’s hard graft, is going to be influenced by Maldivian sounds. Like Metallica, they have mellowed their sound from extreme metal to what they call ‘industrial thrash metal’.

Their new lyrics will tell the story of a post-apocalyptic world brought about by climate change. Their last album, ‘Antidote of realism’ tells the story of the political chaos of recent times.

“Singing in Thaana, to the tune of someone else’s music, is not what Maldivian music should be about’, Hilarl said. Nothnegal is going global as a Maldivian band, and are proud of it.

Listen to ‘Antidote to Realism’ online

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48 thoughts on “All the world’s a stage: Maldivian death metal band beats the odds and goes global”

  1. Congratulations. You inspire me. Maldivian youth has now got you as role models. You are the right kind of Ambassadors we need for this country. You manifest the dream of young people.

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  2. This is quite an achievement!

    To emerge from the kind of prejudices and discouragement they must have faced in the Maldives, with a record deal and international tour speaks volumes for their commitment!

    I hope this is an inspiration for other Maldivians with dreams.

    P.S. Purists would recoil in horror at the sentence that compares Metallica's mellowed down, made-for-MTV-and-radio sounds to 'Industrial thrash metal'.

    You mean Megadeth.

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  3. Kudos and Congrats to Nothnegal for "breaking" in the global music scene.

    Would have been quite interesting to know what you were saying in "Antidote to Realism" - perhaps you could post the lyrics somewhere. Cool title though.

    Perhaps you're like a musical Picasso or Dali - so bored that art should the most accurate possible depiction of real life - and so twist anything that sounds like human speech into something that us mere humans would wince at.

    Word of advice though - I'd avoid playing near any forests or zoos on your European tour - you may end up turning on too many bears or lions with that voice!

    No - but all jokes aside - congrats.

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  4. This is awesome 😀

    I hope more bands/artists make it just as big. There are so many awesome bands in so many genres.

    Hindi copy music should be outlawed. That crap is horrible, pointless and embarrassing.

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  5. Now why cant people comment more on acheivements like this rather than some stupid political story. its a shame that people dont notice the great benefits this band will bring to our country and society. Proud of you guys n keep up the good work

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  6. You guys totally rock! This is a huge step for the Maldivian youth and we are proud of you. I hope you will inspire other youth to persevere as you have. Congratulations and good luck on your tour. Enjoy!

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  7. Finally Breaking the Shell and Coming out to the world. Congratulations guyz make us proud.

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  8. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shoken/3406147065/
    You guys rock! Nothnegal. Found some awesome shots too! and from your brother it is. The stage is set and show the world, guys.

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  9. Congratulations Nothnegal!

    You guys are definitely an inspiration for all of us who have dreams to make the Maldives a better place where you hear music, see color, appreciates life and be happy.

    I am deeply touched by your efforts, enthusiasm and determination to achieve your goal.

    I wish you a successful tour abroad!

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  10. Congratulations and well done guys. I am really happy to to hear about your success. Nice one!

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  11. Congratulations! I think all Maldivians should be proud of them. Hoping more bands and artists would become big on the world stage in the future.

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  12. these are exactly the kind of youth we need as role models: inspirational, defying all odds, and using their talent to make it big and rewarding.

    congratulations. this is the most hopeful story for the Maldives I've heard in a month.

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  13. well the band has two members who have been ex-members of Misery Index,Dying Fetus,Chimaira, Kalmah etc... :O

    So um sure that had are lot of weight on this 😀

    but anyways all the best guys \m/

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  14. @Sudu Chooti...the band haven't released an album or material since the 2 foreign members joined them. they are still holding onto Antidote of Realism which they recorded with a 100% Maldivian lineup. we have yet to see the album and material from with these 2 members. so all achievements they have achieved so far is through their release from 2009 which was done 'without' their new drummer and keyboard player.

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  15. Maldivian musicians never had the real quality of their own music in them. They always sing either bollywood tuned songs or someenglish song like you guys did. But what needs to be praised in you guys is not the music you played, but the enthusiasm you all had to reach where you are now. Wish you all the best and congrats. Ah, dont worry about winter clothes,you can always get them on the first port of entry in Europe.

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  16. singing in English isnt a problem and that doesnt make this band a non-Maldivian band. almost all of the bands from around the world who have made it big internationally, like bands from Sweden, Finland, Norway sing in English while they too have their own native language. we have to accept the fact that the majority of the popular music industry is based on English language while there is the World Music genre which is a whole different scene that focuses more on cultural music. whether this band's songs are sung in English or Dhivehi, the music needed to have quality to compete against whats out there in the industry which obviously we can see that had the quality which is why they got signed and landed a full fledged European Tour. There must be thousands of bands out there who play the same style of music and are still unsigned and never done a tour since its a very competitive industry. so either way, this is a huge achievement. being a band from a place like Maldives with limited resources and such a small population in such an Isolated region with so many different cultures, i can only imagine the difficulties this band must have gone through to get where they are now and get noticed to the world.

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  17. Bravo. Hard work pays off. Keep it up. We are proud of you. Never give up. Looking forward to see you on the big stages. Good luck!

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  18. These guys need our support. Unfortunately music is under threat in our country. Mullahs who believe music is haraam are on full throttle to stop it.

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  19. Really proud of you guys. You have defied all odds and have succeeded. Good luck!

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  20. great achievement for Maldivian music industry. congrats and best of luck for the tour.

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  21. Awesome guys.... YAY YAY YAY.... Feel like banging my head on the wall and scream out loud how proud I am to be a Maldivian today. You made my day!

    Maaji... keep it up! You are an inspiration to everyone around you. Hope your genes spread in our small community.

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  22. Wow...this is a moving and heart moving instance of Maldivian Original Music...Wish you guys well...

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  23. Friends open ur eyes... its all prohabited in our religon. Don't support them, stay against them...

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  24. they are also muslims,and they are goin forward just like the muslims in the history. dont discourage them just becox of someone! guys! carry on 😀

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  25. guys and gals,

    from what iv known all these days, its just a seperate kind of music which is prohibited in our religion..

    neways, goodluck to nothnegal.. all the best 🙂 we r proud of you .

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