Music Hall bill turns controversial in Maldives Parliament

Picture of the Maldivian Parliament | Photo: Majlis

Malé, Maldives – The proposed bill pertaining to the creation of an music hall, with embedded music facilities has turned controversial on the parliamentary floor and among the public in the Maldives.

The bill was introduced by the MP Hassan Latheef of Henveiru West constituency, stating the need for a space for youth to gather and listen to music, in the capital city Malé. The bill also specified the inclusion of facilities for the youth to study music in the space.

MP Latheef stressed on the social issues Malé faces such as overcrowding, lack of housing, lack of job availability, and emphasized the stressful existence of the Maldivian youth living in the capital city.

Malé needs a space for youth to gather. The youth need this space to hang out and enjoy with friends. A space to do this and listen different kinds of music is absolutely necessary at the moment. MP Latheef

MP Latheef, Malé Henveiru West constituency

The Henveiru West MP also proposed including an event hall for live shows, band practice rooms and a recording studio in the music hall. He stressed on the significance of music in the Maldivian culture and shared his dismay at the imminent loss of music from the culture itself.

The Malé, Galolhu constituency, Eva Abdulla followed up and highlighted the importance of music, song and drama in the continuation of tradition and culture of a country.

MP Eva Abdulla said that music has been a part of human civilization since 1500BC and music brings change.

The Umawi (Ummayad) and Abbasi (Abbasid) caliphates were the peak of music in Islam. Back then when people heard the music, their hearts moved towards Islamic empire.

Eva Abdulla, Malé Galolhu constituency

MP Eva followed up with expressing the role of music in various times in history. She shared the dream of Martin Luther King to be a musician and how it shaped the present America. The role of punk rock in expressing anger among young Englishmen.

MP Eva also highlighted the role of various Maldivian artists such as Naifaru Dhohokko, Olympians, Hamdi, Jaymu Dhonkamana and Ali Rameez in shaping the youth of their times in her speech.

I want my child to grow up listening to Dhivehi music [like we did] and for her life to be as joyous as mine.

Eva Abdulla, Malé Galolhu constituency

The Malé Maafannu Uthuru constituency, MP Fahmy, also shared these sentiments. He stated that music is a very strong medium of expression, and music helps people share independent speech.

MP Fahmy emphasized the increasing copyright infringements in the country, and urged the authorities to execute the copyright laws of the country. He brought up the issue of foreigners singing original Dhivehi songs and music in resorts without any profits going to the artists.

We have to protect the dignity of our artists. We have to ensure that they earn from the work they do.

MP Fahmy, Malé Maafannu Uthuru constituency

MP Fahmy also brought up the Anti-music movement taking root in the country. He mentioned a religious scholar stating that rock music is haraam (forbidden). MP Fahmy argued that if one genre of music is haraam then all genres must be also.

Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir joined the debate saying that the music industry must be shaped in a way that artists earn profits.

Other members of the parliament shared the need for the music industry to also be established and supported in the islands of Maldives as well.

While majority of the parliament supported the bill, some debated against it.

Nolhiwaram constituency MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla said that over 90 percent of religious scholars oppose music and accused the ruling party MDP of trying to destroy the country by corrupting the youth.

If youth in Malé are stressed they can do many other things. There are around twenty eight mosques [they can go to]. They give religious sermons regularly. Youth can go to relieve their stress… There are no scholars who have written that music alleviates stress. That a [music induced] high can make a person’s brain relaxed.

MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla, Nolhiwaram constituency

MP of Naifaru constituency Ahmed Shiyam said that he did not notice any restrictions currently placed on people enjoying themselves in Malé city. He asked what more the bill is asking for.

“Should we make bars in Malé? Should we make brothels? This is what you are actually asking us for.”

MP Ahmed Shiyam, Naifaru constituency

The opposing members asserted that the Maldivian youth want housing, job opportunities, and to build families with dignity. They said that musicians only want ways to profit from their music.

Following this parliamentary debate, the public has taken to social media and other platforms to debate on this topic as well.