I belong to the tiny island nation of the Maldives. Fun fact: our country’s population is about the same as the number of employees at Hewlett Packard.
Maldives is a string of islands in the Indian Ocean so small it isn’t even included on most maps. The best way to locate us on a world map is to check for a line of ink dots near Sri lanka and India.
Our country is unknown to most of the world. Friends who live abroad tell me they find it very difficult to explain where we’re from. It’s a surprise if someone’s heard of it.
Earlier this year, I was awarded a one month internship in Seattle through a U.S. State Department program. I was expecting miracles from this trip — after all this is my first time outside of Asia. It didn’t take long to get an amazing surprise:
Last month during my visit I met one of the most promising bands in the Pacific Northwest’s roots rock scene, an expansive seven-piece whose music recalls mature and graceful storytelling. The band is named after my country — The Maldives.
(Video by Saroj Karki)
It was a rare opportunity for me, but it was also the band members’ first time meeting someone from the country that is their namesake.
Naturally, the first question I asked them was how they came up with the name. Apparently one of their friends found Maldives on a board game and brought it to the band members as a possible band name.
“We couldn’t think of a name to come up with… One night they were looking at the back of a Trivial Pursuit card and ‘Maldives’ was the answer to one of the questions,” explains lead singer Jason Dodson. “So I looked it up and it was stunning and absolutely beautiful and I was like ‘yeah we should name our self-something beautiful.'”
Pretty cool, right?
You might expect the Maldives band to have visited the Maldives islands. But no, they have not. At least not yet. They say look forward to visit the Maldives at the first chance they get. But they say cost of traveling and the high cost of hotels in the Maldives holds them back.
Most successful American bands and artists are attached to a label. But not the Maldives. They are as of yet independent. In fact, the Maldives was once described ‘the best unsigned band in Seattle.’ However, the band is looking for opportunities to sign up for a label. Maybe then they’ll be able to make their Maldives debut.
I did ask the band members whether they get questioned about the Maldives – not the band but the islands. Apparently, they do get asked about our stunning islands quite a bit.
“Actually I get a lot of email from your country saying they like our band and asking why we name our band after your island,” says drummer Faustine Hudson.
During the early years of the Maldives, musicians came in and out of the lineup at a heady pace (Dodson told a journalist in 2006 that approximately 30 people had joined and quit the band by that point), and for a while Dodson was using the name while touring as a solo act.
Near the end of 2004, Dodson was set to play a show at Seattle’s renowned roots music venue the Tractor Tavern, and he asked Bonn and fellow guitarist Tim Gadbois to join him for the show; the performance was a success that sparked a new beginning for the Maldives, and soon the trio was joined by bassist Chris Warner, Chris Zasche on pedal steel and keyboards, and drummer Ryan McMackin.
Being someone from the Maldives, and the ONLY Maldivian who has met the Maldives band in Seattle, it’s my dream to see the Maldives band perform in the Maldives. And it’s their dream too.
Let our dream come true.