‘Minivan Vayaa’ – A Tribute to Maldivian Women

The story of how one song ushered in a transition in Maldivian music and dance culture, essentially making it a tribute for women.
Photo via Maldeeb

Whenever a Maldivian hears the words ‘minivay vaya kulhe laashe taza, mee nishaane ujaalaa’, you are bound to see some very exotic hip movements and authentic smiles. This has been true about the song for four decades now. About fourty three years ago, the Maldivian music and dance culture witnessed a transition that would in time become a legacy passed from generation to generation, giving women a sense of pride. This is the story of the song every Maldivian love.

Prior to the ‘Buzura’ performance in 1977 by Aminiya School students, dance was for men. Whether it was ‘Bodu Beru’ or ‘Buzura’ , men were seen moving their hips and hands in rhythm with the beat. This changed when Kuda Mureedu and U’thi Adam Fulhu choreographed a dance routine for Aminiya students to showcase at the National Independence Day celebrations; to the beat and rhythm of Ogaru Ali Funiu and Dhonna Hussain Funiu. In the crowd of students, danced Aamal, Nadhiya and Naseera — three women who initiated a transition in the Maldivian dance culture.

The first dance performance was for a Gujarati song — but the lack of understanding of the Indo-Aryan language made eager teachers of Aminiya recreate a Dhivehi version of the song, and thus the “Minivan Vayaa” we know today was born in 1982. But much like a newborn needs its mother to nurture it, the song needed the same. Throughout time, the song had received three recorded versions, each a more complete version than its predecessor; as a result of the love the three ladies had for the song. Sung by Aishath Naseera, the “Minivan Vayaa” song was later choreographed by Rasheedha Mohamed Didi (RMD) and performed by over two hundred students in an event called “Music and Movement through the Ages”.

Since the song was initially sung over the beat of `Buzura’ it lacked authentic Maldivian cultural references and hence the second recording of the song in 1990 was envisioned with bits of ‘Bodu Beru’ by Shammoon Hameed. This version debuted in time for the SAARC convention in the Maldives, where it was performed by the bold women of our country. The song was once again sung by Naseera with Aamaal and Nadhiya in the chorus.

Finally, the third version and the one we hear today was recorded in 2010 at Television Maldives known as MNBC One back then. The song was recorded in time for the Independence Day celebrations that year — during which the song received its first ever music video starring Naseera — the lead vocalist of the song. Although Aamaal once again sang the chorus, she did not appear on the video.

Fast forward five years since then, the trio of Naseera, Aamal and Nadhiya have once again won the hearts of many — young and old — through a historic performance of the song at the Golden Jubilee of Independence celebrations. Naseera, Aamal and Nadhiya clad in a “Dhivehi libaas” was truly a moment of pure ecstasy to a lot as they performed the song which now holds nationalistic significance.

Throughout history, the song has been used on various occasions, including one which served as a fund raiser for the Tsunami victims in 2004. The song also received a saxophone rendition — often played during events concerning the tourism sector of the country. The main melody of the song has become implanted in Maldivian minds in such a way that, whenever they hear it, they are bound to sing along with the beautiful voices of Naseera, Aamal and Nadhiya.

There’s more to this song though. As afore mentioned, this song saw the transition of dance from men to women. But the ability to sway one’s hips to music is not the only thing special about this song. “Minivan Vayaa” teaches the female child to take pride in the fact that she is a girl. The song instils values and nationalism, giving the listeners a sense of patriotism. For what it’s worth, it would not be wrong to say that the song has played a great role in empowering women into breaking free from societal norms and being free.