Authentic stories, about the lives of quintessential Maldivians across the Maldives, exclusively brought to readers by The Edition.
It is difficult to render which is more epic, Ibrahim Mohamed Manik’s melodic retelling of the Burunee Raivaru, the tale itself, or the man narrating the story.
Nearly 50 years after he learnt the story, the pure precision of his storytelling and the clarity with which he ‘sings’ the 'Raivaru' today, is nothing short of astounding.
Favoured by the toddy tappers (Raiverin) of Maldives so much so that the name is derived from the moniker itself, a 'Raivaru' is a short song comprising of 3 or 6 verses that are sung in a distinct melody and is one of the arguably lesser known or practised forms of Maldivian poetry.
Burunee Raivaru, arguably the most famous local story of all time, narrates the epic tale of ‘Dhon Hiyala and Ali Fulhu’, a story much akin to the infamous Romeo and Juliet that climaxes to the Sultan’s folie à deux over Hiyala’s undeniable beauty.
It is extraordinary though to hear about Ibrahim’s arduous journey from the deep south in the 50’s to the far north of Maldives, learning the story from where it begins in Maroshi, Shaviyani Atoll and returning back home to Fuvahmulah in the 70’s.
Burunee Raivaru, for those interested, is usually sung as a type of performance that locals dub ‘fathigandu jehun’. A small troupe of dancers gyrates rhythmically as they strike pieces of wooden sticks together to the pulse of a larger drum. The drummer usually sings the 'Raivaru', and moves the tempo in harmony to the pace of the story.
Ibrahim, however, prefers to sing his entire repertoire of songs to the beat of a 'dabiyaa'; a type of large tin box traditionally used to store and transport local delicacies across the archipelago.
“Ay, back in the day striking the ‘dabiyaa’ as we sang, you couldn’t tell the difference with those western rock songs on the radio,” said Ibrahim, as a rather impish grin spread across his handsomely aged face.
“I live alone now, though my kids do visit now and then, to help me take care of my home", said Ibrahim, with just a hint of melancholy colouring his generally optimistic tone.
"I believe my time has passed... I’m old now, though I have my stories to keep me company”.
“I no longer sing like I used to, but at the peak of my musical ability, I performed nearly every night and at virtually every event on the island as well as many others, throughout my travels across the Maldives.”
A kind of rare authenticity lives within him, as he walks, as he smiles and as he talks, holding this writer captive with such ease.
One cannot help but wonder exactly how charismatic this musical soul would have been, half a century ago in his prime, as a travelling musician in the 70's.