I am in the Maldives for 2 weeks. This country is a group of islands southwest of India.  Google-map the country and zoom way in!

Here is my sound journal for this tropical Island paradise. It is broken into 3 parts: my experiences, a brief into to Maldevian politics, and some phrases in dhivehi. And then below, some of the recordings I made here. (Note, I mispronounce ‘bangi’, or the Muslim call for prayer. Proper pronunciation is ‘bun-ghee’.)

My experience (yes, I built an inukshuk out of coral):

Maldevian politics:

Phrases in dhivehi:

I spent four days on Vaavu, a small island south of Male with perhaps 200 people. Listen to the tracks below and you will here one huge and, in my opinion, glorious difference: no traffic. There was not a single car or motorbike on the island. The only motors I heard were when I was near the diesel generator or the wharf where the dhonis came in to the small harbor. To my ears, where the norm was humans = traffic noise, this was truly a magical place.

The young adult version of blowing bubbles is smoking a sheesha.

Below I walk down a path in Vaavu between houses. Life on the island is audible.

One night we were honored to listen to a group of young men playing drums and singing traditional songs. Although this was one of the most powerful things I have heard on my journey thus far, I am not posting any recordings of that music for many reasons. More to come on this issue.

Many of the households on Vaavu breed small birds for sale as pets, likely in Male. They chirp through much of the day.

Here is the call for prayer as I heard it on Vaavu, and below a clip of the men chanting part of the Koran.


Fish chirrup! On the reef while snorkeling, I heard 2 sounds created by the sea life: fish crunching constantly on coral, the strange burbly sounds that happened now and then. I couldn’t see any indication of what was making the sounds, and underwater sounds are very hard for humans to tell which direction they are coming from. After recording and observing for a while, my recording assistant Nico the Austrailian noticed that it seemed to be a territorial sound. When one species of fish darted into the space of another, the sound would happen. Our guess was the Humbug Dascyllus, a zebra-striped damselfish, or a solid black one that looked just like it, perhaps the Twospot Damselfish.

On a short trip to a very small, uninhabited island near Vaavu, we discovered a large hermit crab who immediately vacuumed himself back into it’s shell when we picked it up. The Maldevians in our group all started making the sound below to try and coax him out – apparently it sounds like the ocean to the crab.

Two soundmarks of Vaavu, and likely most of the islands in the Maldives, are the wind in the palm trees and the waves on the sand.

Male is a city of almost 100,00 fitting onto an island less than 2km square. There are many people walking (very slowly for my speed-obssessed North American feet) but it is the perfect tempo for the heat and the setting. Voices of people speaking the local language dhevehi are the most common human sound. Dominating there, however, are the motorcycles which are constantly filling the streets, as well as small cars and delivery vehicles. Engines and horns are the prevailing sound mark of Male, and the clip below was a jam outside my window one morning.

Another soundmark, this one a signal, is the call to prayer broadcast over loudspeakers. The Maldives is a Muslim country and five times a day, many men follow the call and go pray in the several mosques in Male. Compare the clip below with the one above at was recorded in Vaavu- what is different about the sound of the call for prayer on these two islands?