Bodu Beru is similar to some of the songs and dances found in east Africa. It is likely that the music was introduced to The Maldives by sailors from the Indian Ocean region. It may be said that Bodu Beru known commonly as "Baburu Lava" (Negroid Song) first made an appearance in The Maldives in the 11th Century AD, or maybe before.
Bodu Beru is performed by about 15 people, including three drummers and a lead singer. They are accompanied by a small bell and an "Onugandu" - a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, from which raspy sounds are produced by scrapping. The songs may be of heroism, romance or satire. The prelude to the song is a slow beat with emphasis on drumming, and dancing. As the song reaches a crescendo, one or two dancers maintain the wild beat with their frantic movements ending in some cases in a trance.
Bodu Beru evolved among the common citizens as an alternative to court music. In the early days, the people gathered together to perform Bodu Beru, and it became widely accepted as the music of the common people. The performing of the music is often referred as "vibrating the island". A notable point about Bodu Beru is its noise and sometimes meaningless lyrics sung. The lyrics do not have a meaning, because it consists of a mixture of local, neighbouring and some African words. Today, meaningful songs written in the local language Dhivehi are sung to the rhythm of Bodu Beru.
Bodu Beru is usually sung after a hard day's work. The location is up to the performers. Today, Bodu Beru is an important item of entertainment at stage shows, celebrations and festivals. The costume of the performers is a sarong and a white short sleeved banian.