First sound quality workshop held for local musicians

It was an unusual scene. Some of the most popular musicians, DJ and audio artists mingled with amateur musicians doing a rhythm exercise.

The stomping of foot and sound of clapping hands were punctuated only by the sound of kass kass, a versatile rattle that originated in West Africa, used as a form of percussive expression, played by French musician Johann Berby who led the exercise.

At his prompting the rhythm changes again. Berby along with Theo Croix is conducting a sound workshop in conjunction with Alliance Française and Island Music.

Once the exercise is over all the participants sit back for what seems like music lesson interposed with life lessons.

“If you feel the rhythm its easy to play, you are the instrument,” says Berby. Strumming his guitar to emphasis his point, Johann says one can speak with ones instrument “music is a mirror of what you are, you can even impart good energy to a sick person by playing for him.”

Before calling on a participant to play the drum, while Croix played violin and he took up the bass guitar, he says “Play for everyone, share your music and knowledge.”

Making better sound

It is Berby’s concept of sharing musical knowledge that proved to be a catalyst for the first ever-sound workshop to be held in the Maldives.

The workshop of three days started on September 19 with 80 participants, and is aimed at improving the sound quality of music in Maldives.

“After performing in Maldives last year with the famous Cameroonian singer Blick Blassy, Berby proposed to us to hold a sound workshop here,” says Pauline, the directrice of Alliance Française Male’ (AFM).

Berby a talented bassist who tours with different musicians, followed up on his offer by sending a proposal, and offering to do the workshop for free. Seeing there was a need for such a workshop AFM organized it.

“Lets just say getting the sound right was difficult,” says Berby of his live performance with Blick Blassy last year in Artificial Beach. According to him good musicians can make the music sound better if the sound base is good.

A sentiment echoed by Island Music. “We had been thinking for a long time of holding a sound workshop, and this initiative by Johann and AFM came at the right time for us,” says Azmi Jaleel, Chief Operating Officer of Island Music (IM).

As a company that also has a sound reinforcement arm in addition to being distributors of music instruments in Maldives, IM had faced difficulties with live shows.

“It is difficult doing sound for a live show, when musicians also lack basic knowledge about it. We also have learnt lot of things from the workshop as has the musicians which will definitely improve this industry.”

Lack of guidance

Fathimath Fezleen, owner, singer and bassist of Detune band, says the workshop “had filled a void in the industry.”

The band, a regular performer at upmarket resorts, lacked a guiding figure on sound says Fezleen. “We don’t know the right path in making sounds as we don’t have someone telling us. This workshop has given us crucial knowledge.”

Recognising the need for such a workshop, Detune part-sponsored the workshop along with Lintel, Bandos, Mookai, Bowers & Wilkings and Beamon.

Both Fezleen and Jaleel pointed out that the workshop also allowed musicians to mingle on an even platform.

“It’s a very diverse group here, apart from musicians we also have people from TV and radio stations, and also individual producers and enthusiasts of music,” says Jaleel.

One such individual is rising hip-hop music producer Mohamed Yasif (Yes E). Despite having produced two local hit video songs, ‘Parteys’ and the catchy number ‘Reethi Kudhin,’ Yasif acutely feels the need to learn more.

“I learn via Internet, buy music courses off it and follow them.” However he laments that these courses allow for very little practical knowhow.

“We, the new producers on the scene, have no one to turn to for questions.” Yasif says even if he pays studios to record, he still faces difficulties. “We have to do our own mixing and such, hence need more knowledge.”

Yasif says this workshop would make him a better producer and his next production will rectify the mistakes he made in the past. “Even if our songs are a big hit here, if you hold up against international music scene it will fall short, as we lack technical know-how.”

In the absence of good music schools, workshops like this are a lifesaver according to Yasif.

Unique and better

Croix, a violinist and sound engineer says he found the participants very receptive. “There were lots of questions they most probably had no one to ask before.”

The workshop had both physical and theory lessons, and included aspects on how to make sound better in live shows and in studios.

Berby is all praises for Maldivian music veteran Faidh, who was the focal point in organizing the workshop. “We asked Faidh to teach in the workshop with us, but he declined.”

Berby hopes to come back and conduct more workshops, amid plans to hold them in other Asian and African countries that do not have music schools.

“Next time I would like to do a workshop, on music of different continents.” He advises Maldivian musicians to dip into their culture and roots for inspiration, to make unique music.

Amid a debate between participants and Croix on how good MP3 songs could sound, Jaleel says IM also believes this is the start of many more workshops.

“Next we will do a more detailed workshop instead of a general one.”


France helping Maldives realise development and multicultural ambitions: President

President Mohamed Nasheed has welcomed a series of events in the Maldives designed to try and forge closer cultural and development partnerships with France, claiming they are indicative of a country that is looking to become “more democratic, more liberal” and ultimately, freer.

Speaking last night during a reception at the National Art Gallery in Male’, Nasheed joined Christine Robichon, French ambassador to the Maldives, in playing up the latest developments in what he claimed was a long relationship that dated back to the 1700’s and was continuing to benefit the nation in a variety of different ways.

This week in particular has seen a number of developments relating to French culture and expertise in the Maldives, including the naval ship FS Mistral docked in the country’s waters as part of a long-term training deployment and the more scaled back establishment of the Alliance Francaise in the recently opened National Library in Male’.

The Alliance Francaise is an organisation that works to promote French cultural language programmes across the world, and is running a Film Festival of productions from French speaking nations. The group was first officially recognised in the Maldives in 2009 and estimates that the number of students now learning French at public schools has increased to 400 people from just four during the last two years.

Historically the Maldives has seen significant interest from French tourists in visiting its waters and resorts. While conceding that the strength of this interest had fallen behind other markets like China, Ambassador Robichon told guests at the gallery that the option for a growing number of students in the country to learn French may not make as much business sense locally, but still offered the “variety” of speaking a major international language for Maldivian students.

President Nasheed said that he hoped a growing number of Maldivian children and the wider population were looking to embrace different history, culture and languages through education.

“We want to welcome everyone to the country, we want to become multicultural and we are moving along these lines and with our new found friendship I am sure we will be able to achieve that,” he said.

Along with the potential cultural pursuits being offered to Maldivians, President Nasheed also announced that work was beginning on French-sponsored development assistance projects to provide sewerage and water systems to islands in the country.

Whilst thanking the French ambassador for her country’s assistance with these developments, Nasheed claimed that with its recent ascension from being designated as a UN ‘least developed country’ (LDC) to a middle income nation, the Maldives was having to learn to try and stand on its own two feet.

“Recently we have been promoted from a least developed country and we want to stand up to that. We want to be able to fend for ourselves and live within our means,” he said. “We do not want aid, we want understanding and friendship and I am sure we will find that in France.”


Alliance Francaise creates ‘Male Montmatre’ in Sultans Park

The Maldives Alliance Francaise held its Francophonie’s Day today, with painters and poets working in the shade of Sultans Park to create a ‘Male’ Montmartre’ – sans Moulin Rouge.

The day began with a elaborate French brunch on the terrace of the National Library, overlooking the park, with both members and non-members enjoying coffee, croissants and a spectacular array of artisan cheeses from across France.

In the cool of the afternoon, the Le Printemps des poètes (Spring of Poetry) saw the recitation for poetry in Dhivehi, French and English, accompanied by traditional music including the Maldivian flute, dolki and kottafoshi.

School children participated in an creative workshop led by local artists, while this evening at 9:00pm the Alliance Francaise will host a cafe-concert at Seahouse.

President of the Maldives’ Alliance Francaise, Mohamed Ismail ‘Sikka’ Maniku, said this was the second year the organisation had decided to hold a Francophonie Day.

The purpose, he explained, was not only to teach French and celebrate French culture, “but our culture as well.”

“[The Alliance Francaise] is something really good that we have in Male’, because our youth need something much more concrete. They should have a place to go in the evenings,” he said.

“It’s not only about French classes. Youth [in Male’] lack focus. When you open a class it’s full, but after three months the numbers drop – that says a lot. We are trying to see how we can change this culture and show how people can engage with a goal, and keep an end in mind.”

Sikka proposed the idea of a ‘language house’, teaching not only French but other languages such as Spanish and Italian.

“Of course we do our part [and teach French], bu the main thing would be to engage young people, perhaps with a coffee house, so when they come out of lessons there is a place for them to talk,” he suggested.

“It should be a proper institution where people can come and learn a language and a culture. I think a language house is really important right now – we are a country with a service-oriented industry, so when you are able to communicate in another language it makes a huge difference.

“I remember long ago when Kurumba was opened I happened to be at the reception. There was a lady, sweating profusely, who was trying to communicate with the guy at the desk. I suspect he didn’t really know English – this was 1972. But then I realised she was a French lady, and the moment I said ‘Bonjour Madam’, she relaxed. If we want to deal with these people, we must know their language, we must know their culture.”

Sikka’s own introduction to French culture began with a job in Foreign Affairs after he had completed his O’levels in Sri Lanka. With an interest in foreign relations sparked, he returned to complete his A’levels, and on a whim he walked into the French Embassy in Colombo and asked if he could study in France.

“I remember the guy in the embassy asked where the Maldives was,” Sikka recalls. “But he said OK, and a week later he called me to say the French Ambassador wanted to see me. The Ambassador was very interested – and asked me: ‘Why France?’ I said that I had come to know that France was the best place to do study international relations.”

Within a month Sikka had a scholarship: “It was much later that i realised it happened because they were interested in it, I was lucky, and because there was a scholarship not utilised by Sri Lanka at the time I went in for it. The thinking was – ‘since it was not being utilised, why not give it to me?’”

Sikka studied in France for three years and returned to continue working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Later I wasI sent to the Maldives High Commission in Colombo, so my language was kept fresh, as well as the interest. I felt I owed something to both countries because of the opportunities I was given.”

Sikka became consul in France to the Maldives but it was only three years ago that an Alliance Francaise was opened in Male’.

Sikka says he hopes Maldivians will learn to become more connected to their own culture.

“Many people are probably not enough connected, for so many reasons,” he says. “We don’t learn about our own culture. My generation knew a little bit more, and we preserve it. But then there was a period when this was lacking.

“[Cultural education] should start in the schools – students should come more often to places like the museum, should be told what our forefathers did, what their sacrifices were, how they lived. I’m from a generation that knew a big wall around Male’, when there were only a few places you could enter. And once when I returned from school holidays there was no more wall.”

Among the changes since then, the greatest has been the recent tranisition to democracy, he says.

“A lot of us suffered under the old system, by not being in the thought of the government at that period. It was not because people were necessarily against them, but because [the government] had a perception that anyone who did not tow their line was against them. That fear is now gone.”

For more information on the Alliance Francaise in Male’ and its activities, visit


Alliance Française marks Fête de la Musique – World Music Day

The music piece from the famous French composer Erik Satie wafted through the air, setting the mood for a night of music.

All those gathered in the hall at Iskandhar School leaned a bit closer as Yukari Matsuda played three music pieces on the piano, two pieces by Satie and a third by Claude Debussy.

It was July 1, and Alliance Française (AF) along with Music House was holding an event to mark Fête de la Musique, or World music day.

Fête de la Musique

“Alliance Française will mark this event all over the world,” says Muriel Schmit, the director of AF.

After all World Music Day originated from France, where it first took place in 1982. Traditionally marked at the start of summer, the concept is to have professional and amateur musicians perform free concerts for one evening.

It also aims to encourage people to make music, and the growing popularity of the event has meant that it has spread all over the world and is held in numerous countries annually.

Anya plays for the crowd
Anya plays for the crowd

“We want to promote young Maldivian artists and music of all genres,” says Muriel.

AF is mandated with promoting the local culture, and creating a cultural scene.

“Music in an integral part of a country’s culture and it should be valued,” Muriel says.

AF has sought the help of an NGO, Music House, in hosting the event.

“We managed world music day with AF in 2007, 2009 and this year,” says Ahmed ‘An’du’ Tholaal Hassan, managing director of Music House.

An’du believes marking the event is beneficial to the music scene: “It’s a good platform for new bands to perform.”

However he rues the fact it cannot be marked in its original concept, with free concerts and people playing music on every street corner.

“In other countries it’s a bigger event, but here even the weather plays a part as the day falls during the monsoon.”

Noting that this year’s theme is ‘women in music’, Muriel says “we are happy to have female
musicians perform at this event, as it’s mostly a male dominated industry.”

Having the Maldives first all-female heavy metal band perform was a highlight of the evening, she says.

Promoting Different Genres

Anya, 18, with an acoustic guitar, performs classical songs next. Despite her young age Anya is a
known face having performed in popular music programmes like TVM’s ‘E Hadhaan.’

Industry stalwarts like singer Shifa performs with Music House’s own band ‘Eykolli Baaga’.

Playing original movie soundtracks with a rock feel, Shifa sings songs like Raol and Hithuge Therein. The crowd – mostly youngsters – shows their appreciation.

‘The Sanctuary’, a band of four guys, set the place on fire. Lead singer Visham, complete with kohl rimmed eyes, throws himself into the performance with gusto. A sudden swarm of mostly young men and a couple of girls appear from nowhere and plant themselves at the base of the stage.

What follows next is the most amazing ‘head banging’ at the foot of the stage in rhythm to the black metal music that is played on the stage.

“Black metal has a very dedicated fan following,” says An’du. Dedicated they are, as The Sanctuary are a hitherto unknown name in the music scene and this being their first performance.

‘Chord Sequence’ played grunge music. ‘Nebt-Het’, the all-female band was next, a performance
of four members as their fifth member was abroad. Nebt-Het has ambitions to become the first female
band in the Maldives to play heavy metal.

“They had practiced for just four months,” says An’du. Their performance of Eh heelun and Wicked Games rocked.

The popular Boduberu group ‘Harubee’ did a mean boduberu piece for their intro.

Innovative and modern, it sounded like an invitation to dance. A dozen young men took up the invitation and after doing freestyle dance, switched to traditional boduberu dance moves.

The night truly captured the essence of world music day, the performances mixing different genres
of music.