World Music Day concert rocks Male’ City Hall

Male’ City Hall was transformed into a music venue last night by the Alliance Française Maldives (AFM), which hosted free musical performances by Maldivian and French musicians in celebration of World Music Day.

The Alliance Française Maldives (AFM) has organised annual Fête de la Musique (World Music Day) events in Male’ since 2009, with music performed in public spaces “for everyone to enjoy” as part of this worldwide celebration, AFM Director Cécile Le Breton told Minivan News today (June 30).

Although World Music Day began as an initiative of the French Ministry of Culture in 1982, since its inception the event has become such a “big success” that over 500 cities in 100 countries organise free music performances to mark the beginning of summer, according to Breton.

“In Male’, people are waiting, expecting and looking forward to something like this – an event that offers a break from their daily lives,” said Breton. “This year was quite a huge success, we were very happy so many people showed up.”

“A lot – a lot – of young people came to this event, you could see on their faces that they are really looking for this kind of stuff; something entertaining that’s different from what’s been happening,” she continued.

“There is not that much happening for youth, nothing really interesting, no big music or cultural events,” she noted. “They were so happy to have a chance to musically express themselves.”

“So many people came up to me saying ‘you should organise a concert like this every month’,” she added.

Over 200 people attended last night’s (June 29) event, which featured traditional Maldivian drumming, singing and dancing by Habeys Boduberu Group, energetic performances by Maldivian rock banks Wave Damage and Velvet Flames, as well as a French gypsy jazz band, Caravan Quartet.

“Cultural events are quite successful because they offer csomething different to experience,” said Breton. “This is one of the biggest events AFM holds every year and it is open to everyone.”

“People could hear from the street and a lot came in. It was a pretty good location, although not a very big venue,” she added.

Due to “poor weather conditions and political events” taking place throughout Male’, AFM hosted the event in the Male’ City Hall building located on the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu, however last year World Music Day festivities took place in Sultan Park.

According to AFM, the event setting gives the original ambiance of Fête de la Musique in France, as during the world music day every musician is free to express their artistic talent in countless public places – streets, parks, squares, museums, restaurants – creating a festive atmosphere. Musical performances even take place in “unusual” locations, such as prisons or hospitals.

“We are very proud of this event,” said Breton. “Organising it took a lot of time and energy and you never know if an event like this is going to work in the Maldives.”

“It was very difficult to find sponsors because they kept saying ‘its not the right time’. They were so afraid and discouraged holding cultural music events,” she lamented.

“I think they were reluctant because we are not Maldivians, but Alliance Française received so much positive feedback, especially from youth. We definitely have a role to play holding events like this that are accessible to everyone,” she continued.

Alliance Française Maldives is an NGO based in Male’ since 2009, teaching the French language and giving an insight into French culture, and promoting cultural diversity. AFM holds a variety of diverse cultural events throughout the year, including movie screenings, poetry readings, photography exhibitions, and cooking workshops.

“We are a non-political, non-religious, non-profit organisation trying to bring something different and open people’s minds,” explained Breton. “Part of our primary mission is to offer cultural programs, which is why the organisation was created and has branches worldwide.”

According to the AFM 2013 website, the group has chosen to organise monthly events with a view to maintain coherence within the francophone and francophile groups, to facilitate meetings among like minded individuals and spark creative projects.

Founded in Paris in 1884, Alliance Française is a non-profit association giving the opportunity to anyone to learn French language and enjoy the culture of French speaking-countries worldwide, with over 1000 centres across 136 countries.


Cracks in reef could cause Male’ to collapse, warns Ministry of Agriculture

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has raised the alarm over cracks appearing in Male’ reef, after surveys revealed they could eventually cause the reef to collapse just as it did in January outside the Nasandhura Hotel.

State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr Mohamed Ali, said the cracks in Malé reef are “serious problems because it is the reef on which we are building this infrastructure.”

He said the amount of weight and activity around the reef is “debilitating the structure [and] part of it has already collapsed.”

“Cracks are a significant threat to infrastructure,” he said. “We fear some of the reef face might just fall off.”

Dr Ali said although there were many options being looked to try and resolve or alleviate the issue, “nothing is being done” at the moment. He added one of the simplest options to help relieve the pressure on the reefs was to “reduce the load” they are subjected to.

He said although some of the cracks were natural, “it is [mostly] due to some external forces that exacerbate it.”

He added that the effect of pollution and contamination were also of major concern.

Director of Environmental Protection and Research at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ibrahim Naeem said although “cracks are a common occurrence… there are some threats.”

He said the cracks were occurring “on the reef structure, on the non-living basement of the reef.”

Naeem noted “there is a possibility of collapse” and added “it has happened in many regions,” including in Malé near the Hulhumalé ferry terminal. He said the north-east area of the island was the most vulnerable.

The cracks were usually caused “when people start making buildings and heavy structures, and loading and unloading heavy equipment and goods,” such as granite rock, near vulnerable areas of the reef.

He noted it is “really hard to reconstruct [the reef base]” and if it was to be done, reconstruction might have to start from the sea bed. “We would have to be careful,” he suggested.

Naeem said there had been some studies on the corals around Malé which concluded “it is not a good idea to build heavy structures in these [vulnerable] areas.”

He said the government has also “advised agencies not to give licences to build high structures in those areas.”

Head of Malé Municipality Adam Manik said the incident in front of Nasandhuraa Hotel in Malé, where part of the reef seemingly collapsed, “has nothing to do with the coral reef. It’s the piling.”

Manik said some of the metal pilings beneath Malé, which are 18 inches wide, “don’t reach the lagoon floor bed.”

He said due to “wave action,” the sand beneath the pilings loosens, leaving a gap between the sea bed and the pilings.

He said on 1 January 2010, when the reef collapsed at the hotel, he rushed to Malé to find “several ministries were involved, making a mountain out of a mole-hole.”

He said it would be very “irresponsible of the government” if they were “not giving due credence to these things if they are true.”

Manik said there could be caves in the reef, which would account for the sightings of large cracks. But overall, he said he felt “the whole concept is wrong.”

Building codes stipulate the height of buildings should be determined by the size of their base, but there is no code that limits the weight of a building, Manik added.

Currently, Malé Municipality is in charge of overseeing constructions and making sure they follow the building codes.

Ali Rilwan from environmental NGO Bluepeace said there are places in the reef where “reef slope failure” can be found, meaning the reef has sloped down, as it would happen in a landslide.

Rilwan noted there were some incidents in 1991 when dynamite was used to place the cables for a desalination plant and caused cracks in the reefs. The reef was damaged again near the Hulhumalé ferry terminal, he said, when the sea wall was being put in.

Rilwan said the barge that was transporting all the rocks to build the sea wall unloaded from this area, where the barge was anchored for a long period of time. This in itself, he said, could have worsened sloping of the reef, if not caused it.