It was rather unusual for most to walk into Sultan Park to witness a musical performance, the releasing of ‘Kula Yellow’ album. Apart, from the invited guests, a lot more joined the crowd to see this wonderful performance. For me, everything was great except for the ants that kept on falling from the trees. A barbecue corner serving grilled meat and drinks would have made the night perfect. But more than anything, everyone enjoyed listening ‘Dinba’ music, which I have been trying to understand for the last couple of weeks. Having met with Shiuz, Ishantey and many more such fine musicians while working on the project, I realized that the true architect behind this new music was Ishantey. So, I finally asked him to explain what this really was.
To begin with, the word ‘Dinba’ was coined from the word ‘Din’, which belongs to a jargon among the youngsters that began to emerge in the 1990s. In this jargon, the words are not strictly original but several are borrowed from other languages. To give you an example, ‘Partey’ is a common one. As such, ‘Din’ is a word used to describe a particular behavior. According to Ishantey, when a person sounds sarcastic or senseless either in phrasing what he says or the words it self with regard to the conventional usage of Dhivehi language, is when a person is behaving ‘Din’. This can be very annoying at times though expressing the persons inner most feeling about something or someone, disregard the spaces he inhabit. This characteristic is apparent in almost every song of the genre. As such, Dinba music is a genre based on the lyrics and aggressive vocalizing rather than the style or arrangement of the music.
If you consider Kula Yellow, the album comprises of seven songs in different musical styles. A piano ballad, a country song, a reggae, a dj remix, two world music and the title song Kula Yellow portraying the French countryside. Presumably the (yellow) sunflower fields though the flower has more than ‘thin fiya’ (three petals). Ishantey, who has written over eighty such songs, says he love to work with different artists and hence, the musical taste, style and arrangement differ from song to song depending on the musician’s taste and competency. However, he is strict in keeping the words within the unique Dinba context, though contradictory to the conventional way of songwriting. This is obvious in Kula Yellow. One such album, ‘Furolhu’ was released few years back, which involved Ishantey much the same way as in Kula Yellow. But until Kula Yellow, Dinba music has remained underground with an unpolished sound, sharing a tradition like that of the punk rock from the late 1970s, though musically not so aggressive. Perhaps Dinba music sounds better that way and much meaningful if the sound is low-fi.
Kula Yellow is the first Dinba music album, which has included mainstream artists such as Shiuz. Hence the releasing of the album with its unique artwork was promoted much like any other mainstream album thereby inviting the first lady for the event. Even so, the contributing musicians worked and remain as a family, the Dinba family, rather than hired studio sessionists. With the growing popularity of the song Bob Marley ge Kaalaa Manna, it is inevitable that the album has fated to end the underground past of the genre while questioning its future. This certainly is a new wave in the history of popular music in Maldives since Dinba has concluded the censorship that has been a constant feature in the production of popular music. I’m not saying Dinba is revolutionary but the fear that popular music may undermine the social harmony or the traditional values have resulted in policies and practices directly affecting the production and consumption of popular music for generations making it a political issue. However, the reality is that within the boundaries of popular music, the so-called revolution that the governments or politicians feared was actually experienced as a collective dream by musicians and songwriters with “… no vanguard parties or cadres, no manifestos or five-year plans; no sweeping political reforms… It owed more to aesthetics than to ideologies, and its politics were acted out within the industries that produced it” (John Street, 2001).