The Lotus World Music and Arts Festival, which will consume downtown Bloomington from September 28 to October 1, recently announced this year’s provisional lineup, and I’ll be profiling some of the more prominent acts in the weeks ahead.
More than 12,000 music lovers flood the streets each year to experience this pinnacle event, which perfectly encapsulates Bloomington’s celebration of cultural diversity. From traditional Russian throat singing to modern Swedish string music to a stylish Ethio-jazz group, guests are introduced to a variety of undiscovered genres and bands for a weekend of musical enlightenment and reverie.
“It represents the community, as far as diversity and coming together,” says Mike McAfee, executive director of Visit Bloomington. “Generationally, too, it appeals to everybody — it brings you right in.”
As many as six performances could occur simultaneously in the evenings. With such a wide range of musical acts available, attendees will have numerous options of which bands they want to see. Confirmed artists slated to perform this year include:
- Alash (traditional Tuvan throat singing)
- Alex Cuba (Cuban singer/songwriter)
- Irene Atienza & Douglas Lora (Spanish and Brazilian vocals and guitar)
- Derek Gripper & Debashish Bhattacharya (acoustic guitar/Indian slide guitar)
- De Temps Antan (traditional Québécois)
- Iberi (traditional Georgian choral polyphony)
- Pascuala Ilabaca y Fauna (Chilean singer/songwriter)
- Kaia Kater (Canada/Appalachian African-American)
- Ladama (Pan-American music and cultural collaboration)
- Lo’Jo: Fonetiq (North African, Gypsy, and French folk fusion)
- Betsayda Machado y La Parranda el Clavo (Afro-Venezuelan parranda traditions)
- Meklit (Ethio-jazz)
- Sahba Motallebi & Naghmeh Farahmand (Iranian string and percussion)
- The Outside Track (Scots, Irish, and Cape Breton folk fusion)
- Giri & Uma Peters (brother-sister bluegrass duo)
- Maria Pomianowska & Reborn (Poland/string instruments from around the world)
- Rachel Sermanni (Scottish singer/songwriter)
- Trio da Kali (Mali/soulful Mandé griot traditions)
- Väsen (modern Swedish string music)
The lineup is carefully assembled by Lotus Artistic Director Lee Williams, who uses expertise and relationships formed from over 30 years of booking artists in Bloomington to find the perfect mix of diverse musicians.
“Lee has a keen sense for finding talented and emerging artists, and a distinct ear for quality,” says Loraine Martin, Lotus outreach director. “I remember when he booked DakhaBrakha, artists from the Ukraine and a highlight of the 2013 Festival. Lotus was one of the first places in the U.S. to book them — and had them before Bonnaroo.”
Another band that received their big break shortly after Lotus is the Mediterranean-influenced punk, reggae, and electronica band, Balkan Beat Box, who were festival-favorites from 2005 to 2007. The Israeli group’s music has appeared in movies, a TV series, and video game soundtracks. And a sax line from their 2007 song “Hermetico” was featured in Jason Derulo’s 2013 song, “Talk Dirty,” which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
This year’s talented and emerging artists will fill several venues downtown, including the First Christian Church, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church, Ivy Tech Community College Stage located on 4th Street between Walnut and College, the Pictura Gallery/Old National Bank tent on 6th Street on the square, and local favorites like the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and The Bluebird.
The festival originated in 1994, making it older than many of the major music festivals across the country, including Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits Music Festival (which was inspired by the TV show). Since its creation, Lotus has hosted almost 600 artists or ensembles from more than 120 countries or regions. The festival not only brings Bloomington regional recognition, but, according to its website, is also responsible for an economic impact of around $500,000 annually.
A seemingly endless number of concerts are available to those who purchase a wristband, but the festival also features free activities: Lotus in the Park, which offers workshops and concerts in Waldron, Hill and Buskirk Park (formerly Third Street Park); an interactive Arts Village on 6th Street, which displays visual art created by community members; as well as other exhibits and events around town.
By providing so many free activities, Lotus’ effort to include residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds is yet another parallel to our community’s goal of acceptance and inclusion.
“We rely greatly on the 600-plus volunteers that make Lotus operate all year round, as well as through our community partners, sponsors, donors, and making the most of our limited resources,” says Martin.
Grants awarded to Lotus, such as one through Visit Bloomington to promote the festival to areas outside a 50-mile radius of Bloomington, continue to be a big part of why it has become such a community staple. A significant chunk of the attendees come from cities such as Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati.
“They get better at it every year,” McAfee says. “It’s one of the most organized, best run festivals I have ever seen.”
[Editor’s note: The Lotus World Music and Arts Festival is part of The Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, which also presents events and programs throughout the year, including Lotus Blossoms Educational Outreach, Edible Lotus, and a Visual Arts program. In the weeks leading up to the Lotus Festival, Benjamin Beane will profile some of the more prominent acts in the lineup, including videos and photos, so check Limestone Post often — or subscribe! — so you don’t miss a story!]