Being a seafaring nation, the culture of the Maldives is immersed in influences from many different countries bordering the Indian Ocean from India, Indonesia, Malaysia to Africa.
‘Bodu Beru’, literally translated Big Drums, is one of the most popular form or music and dance, especially in the Northern Atolls and is said to be of East African origin. It is a performance by a group of drummers, singers and dancers, starting with a slow beat ending on a frenetic note. Other popular cultural dance include the ‘Thaara Jehun’ for men, with its Arabic influences and ‘Bandiyaa Jehun’ for the women, similar to Indian Pot Dance where dancers mark the beat with a metal water pot, whilst wearing metal rings. Today western and Indian music is much popular with both young and older Maldivians.
Amongst traditional Maldivian handicraft are lacquer work, woven mats, coconut products, boat building, and jewellery. Lacquer is a highly artistic artwork, in which the craftsmen shape wood to make the objects of his desire, using a lathe. Each of the Maldivian handicrafts is particular to certain islands or atolls only. The best form of lacquer work can be found in the island of Thulaadhoo in Baa atoll. The island is popular for its wooden pots, vases and boxes of different sizes and shapes that exhibit delightful abstract and artistic patterns. Gadhdhoo Island is well known for fine and intricate mats that are hand woven. These hand woven mats are used by people as prayer mats and also for decoration. Another island in the Maldives, Rin’budhoo is renowned for its goldsmiths whilst Hulhudeli has a number of silversmiths.
The arrival of tourism has increased the collection and sale of “sea jewellery”, such as coral, mother-of-pearl, black coral, seashell and turtle-shell. However, due to their endangered status and other environmental considerations, these products are now illegal for export.