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24th Annual Lotus World Music & Art Festival Sept. 28 - Oct. 1
Updated September 13, 2017 7:51 AM | Filed under: Event
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(BLOOMINGTON) - The Lotus World Music & Arts Festival returns to Bloomington September 28 through October 1. More than 25 international artists take the stage in ten downtown venues including boisterous, pavement-quaking, outdoor dance tents; contemplative church venues; and historic theaters.

When Lotus performers come together for the four-day festival, Bloomington's streets fill with palpable energy and an eclectic blend of global sound and spectacle. Through music, dance, art, and food, Lotus embraces and celebrates cultural diversity.

The 2017 Lotus World Music & Arts Festival lineup includes artists from Russia, China, Sweden, the Republic of Georgia, Mali, Venezuela, Cuba, and more. Audiences can enjoy quiet introspection with a female Iranian duo, sparks from dueling South African and South Indian guitar virtuosi, high-energy dance-tent fusions from Chile and France, or the deep majesty of Tuvan throat singing. Music genres span the spectrum from traditional sounds and world jazz to Latin rock and contemporary beats, with notes of Celtic, bluegrass, and big Balkan brass.

Though US music fans may not yet recognize many names from the Lotus lineup, Lotus is known for debuting world music artists into the US scene. Many 2017 Lotus artists have recently been recognized in both stateside and international press, including: Alex Cuba: multiple Latin-Grammy winner, Grammy nominee Kaia Kater: "...plaintive, mesmerizing ... writes and performs with the skill of a folk-circuit veteran..." - Rolling Stone. Making Movies: "Lyrically and sonically one of the best albums of the year" - NPR Meklit: "One of the best albums of 2017, bar none." - New York Music Daily .

At its core, the Festival centers around premier showcases on Friday and Saturday evenings, when a wristband becomes a passport to explore all downtown venues from 6:00pm until midnight. Festival events also include an opening concert Thursday night, Sunday's closing World Spirit Concert, free access to the Arts Village, the popular Lotus in the Park on Saturday afternoon (free), restorative Festival Unwind Yoga, and workshops led by Danish textile artist Isabel Berglund.

As the flagship program of the non-profit Lotus Education & Arts Foundation, the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival is one of the oldest world music festivals in the U.S. and the only one of its kind in Indiana. Established in 1994, the Festival attracts more than 12,000 people to downtown Bloomington each fall for 4-5 days of music and arts from around the globe. Through the Festival, Lotus creates - on a grand scale - the rare opportunity for audiences to experience places far removed from their everyday routines and to broaden their worldview through the arts. In doing so, the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival contributes to the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation mission: to create opportunities to experience, celebrate, and explore the diversity of the world's cultures, through music and the arts.
Complete information about the Festival schedule and events, 2017 Lotus artists, ticketing, and more is available online at


  • The 24th annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival is made possible by the generous support of community partners:

  • Presenting Sponsors: Bloomingfoods and Indiana University Bloomington

  • Producer Sponsors: Bloom Magazine; Bloomington Brewing Company; IU Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost; Ivy Tech Community College; One World Catering & Events; Organized Living;and Pizza X.

  • Sustaining Sponsor: Southside Rental

  • Festival Grantors: Visit Bloomington, National Endowment for the Arts: Art Works, Indiana

  • Arts Commission, Brown County Community Foundation, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Southern

  • Exposure for Performing Arts of Latin America; Arts Midwest; and the Bloomington Arts Commission.

Alash Tuva (Russia) - Traditional Tuvan throat-singing

Alash is a trio of master throat singers (xöömeizhi) from Tuva, a tiny republic in the heart of Central Asia. Grounded in the ancient art of throat singing (xöömei), which developed among nomadic peoples of Central Asia, Alash's members were trained in traditional Tuvan music from childhood. They first formed as students at Kyzyl Arts College. Influenced by Western music as well, they practiced on hybrid Tuvan-European instruments and listened to new trends coming out of North America. Under the guidance of Kongar-ool Ondar (best known to western audiences for his role in the
film Genghis Blues), they forged a new musical identity, introducing the guitar and sometimes even the Russian bayan (accordion) into their arrangements alongside traditional Tuvan instruments. The effect is an intriguing mixture of old and new.

Alex Cuba - Cuban Canadian : Cuban Singer Songwriter

Alex Cuba (a.k.a. Alexis Puentes) grew up in Cuba in a prodigiously musical family - his father, Valentin Puentes, is a guitarist and teacher, and his twin brother Adonis has a thriving career of his own. Now, Alex lives in western Canada and weaves Afro-Cuban music with strands of pop, soul, jazz, rock, salsa, and other alt-Latin genres. He has four Latin Grammys on his shelf (plus a raft of other awards). His new album, Lo Único Constante (The Only Constant) celebrates a 1940s-era Havana sound known as filin that highlights acoustic strings (guitar and upright bass); evocative, lyrical songwriting; and Alex's gorgeous vocals. "[S]uperbly minimalistic yet profoundly full. Get ready for a sensory upload of sublime playing, creative arrangements and melodic delight" (Marisa Arbona-Ruiz, NPR Music).

Betsayda Machado y La Parranda el Clavo - Venezuela: Afro-Venezuelan parranda traditions

Betsayda Machado is the voice of Venezuela. Raised in the small village of El Clavo in the Barlovento region, she recently returned there to collaborate with lifelong friends Parranda El Clavo to record a kind of music rarely heard outside the area, tambor venezolano: Afro-Venezuelan rhythms and songs derived from community life, ancestral
dances, town festivities, funerals, and celebrations. Together, Machado and the movable musical party of El Clavo are now bringing this music to audiences around the world. Betsayada and the parranda also include songs about urgent socio-political issues in Venezuela, including gun violence, food shortages, and the country's history of slavery. "The kind of group that world-music fans have always been thrilled to discover: vital, accomplished, local, unplugged, deeply rooted" (Jon Pareles, NY Times).

De Temps Antan - French Canadian: Traditional Québécois

De Temps Antan's Éric Beaudry (vocals, guitar, mandolin, bouzouki), André Brunet(vocals, fiddle), and Pierre-Luc Dupuis (vocals, accordions) have been exploring and performing traditional Quebecois music and song together since 2003 - and they've played it for most of their lives. Their wickedly good playing and joyous harmonies embody the energy and joie de vivre of the "kitchen music" of Quebec, invigorating one of the world's most joyous folk music traditions with contemporary flair.

Derek Gripper & Debashish Bhattacharya - S. Africa & India: Acoustic guitar / Indian slide guitar

South African musician Derek Gripper has spent much of his career translating highly complex kora compositions for classical guitar. Indian musician Debashish Bhattacharya developed a unique Hindustani slide guitar style, on an instrument called the chatarangui - which he designed and built. Each has redefined the styles of music possible on his instrument, inventing new playing techniques and developing bold new repertoires. Both Gripper and Bhattacharya like to collaborate with musicians from cultural traditions very different from their own; in this project, they bring their elegant
and virtuosic string styles into glorious, inventive dialogue.

Fareed Haque & Goran Ivanovic - Jazz guitar

The supple "conversations" that Fareed Haque and Goran Ivanović on their guitars are full of jazz improvisation, grounded in elegance and rigor - and generously influenced by their collective Pakistani, Chilean, Serbian, and Croatian heritages. The duo have been performing together for more than a decade and thread their way easily from classically inflected melodic pieces, to brilliant jazz improvisation, to wickedly virtuosic romps through genres like flamenco and Gypsy music. "[W]hen their two guitars play, cultural barriers melt away" (Chicago Tribune).

Giri & Uma Peters - US: Brother-sister bluegrass duo

This brother-and-sister duo from Nashville, Tennessee, are award-winning multi-instrumentalists who astonish audiences with their refreshing, soulful blend of old-time, roots, and bluegrass music. Giri and Uma may be young, but their musicianship and vocal harmonies showcase a creativity and originality beyond their years. Their musicianship has attracted the attention of roots music star Rhiannon Giddens and banjo greats Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck, among others. Lotus audiences know great Americana roots music when they hear it - and the Peters won't disappoint.

Iberi Choir Republic of Georgia: Traditional Georgian choral polyphony

Iberi are 12 Georgian folk singers and enthusiastic proponents of Georgian polyphonic song, which has been recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of "intangible heritage." Created in 2012, the name of the choir derives from the word "Iberia," Georgia's original name. Iberi's extensive repertoire includes songs from across that country demonstrating different kinds of polyphony, and while the tradition is essentially secular, it includes ancient and rarely performed sacred and pagan songs. Trust Iberi to take Lotus listeners on a remarkable auditory adventure into the past.

Irene Atienza & Douglas Lora - Brazil: Spanish & Brazilian vocals and guitar

Spanish vocalist Irene Atienza and Brazilian guitarist Douglas Lora stand at the intersection of the great musical traditions of their respective countries. The duo interprets the classic Latin catalogue of boleros, fados, tangos, sambas, and bossa-nova revere tradition, but their repertoire also includes new and thoroughly modern compositions. Matched with Atienza and Lora's artistry, the results is a performance experience that is intimate, sophisticated, and powerful. This will be Lora's second Lotus appearance: in 2015, he wowed us as part of Trio Brasileiro.

Isabel Berglund

Danish artist Isabel Berglund uses the familiar, universal tradition of hand-knitting to create monumental public works that demonstrate the power of communal artistic endeavor. Berglund conducts workshops in which participants knit side by side, creating a natural bond through a collective experience. By sharing patterns, techniques, and stories, the men, women, and children who join her artistic endeavors ad their own threads to the history of craft and textile arts. Berglund then sews "patches" knitted in her workshops into a massive collage for a large-scale installation. Look for Berglund's installation at this year's Lotus Arts Village on Lotus weekend.

Kaia Kater - Canada/Appalachian African-American

Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, Kaia Kater grew up in two musical worlds: the Canadian folk music of her Toronto home, and Appalachian music of West Virginia, where she has studied and lived. Fueled by her rich low tenor vocals, jazz- influenced instrumentation, and beautifully understated banjo, her songs cast an unflinching eye on the realities faced by people of color in North America. Kater is part of the new generation of American roots musicians, with an original repertoire that weaves together Appalachian stories, personal narratives of the digital age, and hard-
hitting songs that touch on modern issues like Black Lives Matter. Her work has as much in common with Kendrick Lamar as it does with Pete Seeger, reminding us of the troubled pathways of our own history.

Ladama - Venezuela/Colombia/Brazil/US:Pan-American music & cultural collaboration

This ensemble of women musicians from across the Americas is both a touring band and a catalyst for youth in the communities they visit through workshops in music- making, dancing, composition and audio production. Ladama are Mafer Bandola (bandola llanera), Lara Klaus (percussion, drums), Daniela Serna (percussion), and Sara Lucas (voice, guitar). They combine the rhythms and traditional instrumentation of frevo and maracatu from Pernambuco, Brazil; joropo songs from the high plains of Venezuela; cumbia, gaita ,and champeta from the Colombian coast; and strains of
contemporary American pop and jazz. Their performances include original compositions and traditional songs sung in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. These disparate elements bridge continents and cultures, with sound and story.

Lo'Jo: Fonetiq - France/North African, Gypsy, and French folk fusion

Since they first got together in 1982 in a tiny village near Angiers, France, Lo'Jo have been one of the most eclectic, eccentric, and mesmerizing musical collectives that Europe has produced. Like their British contemporaries the Mekons, Lo'Jo is a globetrotting legend filled with musical shapeshifters who have gone through many incarnations. They have incorporated theater and visual art into their music since the beginning. Led by charismatic songwriter Denis Péan, Lo'Jo has collaborated with street theater groups and circuses, performed in West Africa and the Sahara, and taken
to festival stages in Europe and North America. Lo'Jo reimagines classic French chanson and spikes it with sounds and instruments from all over the world. They first wowed Lotus audiences way back in 2000.

Maria Pomianowska & Reborn

Poland/String instruments from around the world Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, and teacher Maria Pomianowska is a master of bowed instruments from a wide range of musical cultures. She plays cello, the Indian
sarangi, the Nepalese suka, and the Chinese erhu, among many other string instruments. She also plays (and has reconstructed) two instruments essential to old traditions of Polish folk music: the Suka biłgorajska, a fiddle played horizontally, across the knee; and the fidel płocka. Maria's current project, "Reborn," is a celebration of the
suka and its resurrection.

Meklit - Ethiopia/Stylish Ethio-jazz

Meklit is an Ethio-American singer, composer, and "cultural instigator" based in the San Francisco Bay area for the past 12 years. Her musical influences are drawn equally from San Francisco and from Ethiopia. Deeply inspired by the music of Mulatu Astatke (godfather of Ethio-Jazz), her songs shine with pentatonic melodies, Ethio groove, and a poetic core. This is immigrant music and American music all at the same time. Meklit is a TED Senior Fellow, and her talk, "The Unexpected Beauty of Everyday Sounds," has been watched by more than 1 million people. As an artist-in-residence at
universities such as NYU and Purdue, she explores questions of cultural activism, thinking about how music and arts can help us ask questions about who we are and where we want to go collectively.

The Outside Track - Ireland/Scots, Irish, & Cape Breton folk fusion

The Outside Track offers up a lush, hybrid take on Celtic traditions from Scotland, Ireland, and the U.S. These musical and cultural strands come together in a stellar line-up: County Cork's Teresa Horgan, who plays flute and whistle (and takes on lead vocals); accordion player Fiona Black, who hails from the Scottish Highlands; Ediburgh's Ailie Robertson, a virtuoso player of the clàrsach (Celtic harp); U.S. National Scottish Fiddle champion Emerald Rae, who brings both nimble Cape Breton -style fiddling and step-dancing to the mix; and Eric MacDonald, on guitar and mandolin. The
band's command of Celtic music, song, and dance provides the foundation for vigorous and engaging contemporary takes on the tradition.

Pascuala Ilabaca y Fauna - Chile/Chilean singer-songwriter

While her music is rooted in Chilean folk traditions, singer-songwriter and acordeonista Pascuala Ilabaca deftly weaves strands of jazz, pop, rock, and other influences into the mix. Ilabaca has dedicated herself to rediscovering the musical treasures of her country: her first album, "Pascuala canta a Violeta," is an homage to Chilean composer, songwriter, and folklorist Violeta Parra. Ilabaca's voice is as vibrant as the brilliant red accordion she plays -- whether she's singing a heartfelt interpretation of a Víctor Jara song, or bringing the audience to its feet for a Chilean festival dance tune. With her band, Fauna, she swings easily through Chilean genres like the cumbia or the cueca (considered Chile's national dance style), but don't be surprised if you hear hints of Indian or African rhythms, too.

Making Movies - Alt Afro-Latin rock & son

Built upon a heavy foundation of Afro-Latino rhythms, the music of Making Movies has created a bilingual, psychedelic re-envisioning of Latin American son. The band's sound really swings, at times sounding like Compay Segundo being played by Jimi Hendrix, or like Talking Heads digging deep into a Jamaican dembow. The band's strong lyricism, percussive power, and deft straddling of two musical cultures make for powerful, dance-inducing sets that nevertheless pack a political punch. "Music should have a deeper meaning, be more than just a feel-good time," says band member
Enrique Chi. "It needs to make you think a bit."

Rachel Sermanni - Scotland/Scottish Singer-Songwriter

The young singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni brings a special sensibility to the stage. Her poetic lyrics and graceful vocals create an intimate performance experience that is minimal and yet intricate, and evocative of her native Scottish Highlands: there is often a hint of the symbolic and the mystical in her music. Sermanni has recorded in Highland forests and purple hills, live on festival stages, and in technically sophisticated recording studios, but wherever she plays, we are listening to a new voice, one rooted in tradition but confidently exploring new boundaries and horizons. "Rachel Sermanni ... is quietly proving herself to be one of Britain's most promising folk artists" (The Guardian).

Raya Brass Band - Balkan brass w/ an urban edge

Raya brings Balkan dance party mayhem to Lotus from its Brooklyn home base. With the essentials of drums, tuba, sax, trumpet, and accordion, the compact six-member band kicks out a bold, big noise reminiscent of the Balkans, New Orleans brass, and even punk . As comfortable in the throng of a street jam as they are on stage, they keep the intricacy and authority of tradition - mixed up with a funky, urban vibe. Look for Raya on Kirkwood Saturday night, when they bring their irreverent brass-band madness to this year's Lotus street procession. "This Brooklyn collective gleefully upends traditional wedding music of the Balkans and Greece, undercutting regional reeds and brass with decidedly American funk pulse" (New York Times).

Sahba Motallebi & Naghmeh Farahmand - Iran/Iranian String & Percussion

Sahba Motallebi is a modern virtuoso of the tar and setar, lute-like stringed instruments central to Iranian music. She is also recognized as an innovator in the teaching of Persian music; her pioneering efforts to put instructional materials on the Internet and to teach students online have inspired something of a renaissance in the transmission of this ancient art form. Persian percussionist Naghmeh Farahmand is the daughter of Iranian percussion master Mahmoud Farahmand; she started playing tonbak (goblet drum) at the age of 6 and now plays an impressive array of percussion instruments
from around the globe. She also plays the santoor (hammered dulcimer), Iran's national instrument. Together, Motallebi and Farahmand will introduce Lotus audiences to one of the world's great musical traditions.

Sam Bartlett

Musician, artist, author, and stuntologist Sam Bartlett considers himself an "art instigator." "I love to work with people who have no idea how powerful and satisfied they can be as creators," Sam says. "I am less interested in art being 'good' and more concerned with what art is good for: the opening up and empowerment of our individual and collective imaginations." As an artist-in-residence, Sam has created large-scale puppets, masks, and public murals. As a musician (performing mainly on mandolin and banjo), he tours the U.S. with the dance band Notorious and plays with other string
bands and old-time bands, locally and on the East Coast. For this year's Lotus, Sam is conducting a series of workshops to create a "cranky," a scrolling narrative of story+art+music to tell the tale of Lotus Dickey, the Orange County musician who was an inspiration for the first Lotus World Music and Arts Festival. The Lotus Dickey cranky
will premiere at the Festival's kick-off concert.

Suhbi - Indian-American jazz singer-songwriter, India, US

Subhi lives in Chicago, but her roots are in the Indian cultural stew of Mumbai and Delhi, of Bollywood, of Punjabi folk songs. She fell in love with words thanks to her grandfather, who recited poetry to her. "I had a little notebook and I would write down my favorite Urdu poems," Subhi remembers, and those words appear in her own writing in Hindi on songs like "Aagosh" ("Embrace"), on her debut album, Shaitaan Dil (Naughty Heart). She crafts playful pop songs that chart a territory familiar to many multicultural Americans: nostalgia for childhood; the delights and downsides of romance; the experience of separation and transcontinental migration. Influences range from contemporary jazz to old-school Dixieland. "There have been Hindi songs with jazz influences, of course," she notes. "But there aren't many jazz singers who write songs in Hindi."

Trio da Kali - Mali/Soulful Mandé griot traditions

Originally formed for a collaborative project with the Kronos Quartet, Trio Da Kali unites three remarkable musicians from the Mande griot tradition of southern Mali. Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté, daughter of legendary griot singer Kassé Mady Diabaté, is the trio's vocalist; her rich, expressive voice and natural vibrato are reminiscent of the great Mahalia Jackson. The balafonist (and the trio's musical director) is Lassana Diabaté, one of Mali's most distinguished musicians. The youngest member is bass ngoni player Mamadou Kouyaté, who brings a contemporary feel to the traditions he learned from his father, Bassekou Kouyaté. "Steeped in tradition, these three brilliant musicians give a new voice to timeless sounds." (Songlines).

Väsen - Sweden: Modern Swedish String Music

Three of our favorite Swedes return to Bloomington! Olov Johansson, Mikael Marin, and Roger Tallroth first performed on a Lotus stage 20 years ago, and every time they come to town, they earn more fans. (You may have heard them on "A Prairie Home Companion," too.) Their exquisite string music, performed with virtuosic flair and wry humor, is by turns winsome, bittersweet, and exhilarating. The Väsen sound is anchored by Olov's nyckelharpa (the remarkable keyed fiddle native to Swedish traditional music), while Mikael's brilliant play on the viola and Roger's rhythmic drive on the 12-string guitar add depth and melodic counterpoints. There's a playfulness to their music, a delight in shaping centuries-old tunes into exciting new arrangements. And you always hear the inspiration and improvisation of the moment. To experience Väsen is to witness ensemble playing at its finest.

Wu Fei - Sweden: Modern Swedish String Music

Classically trained on the 21-string Chinese zither known as the guzheng, Wu Fei is a master of her instrument's traditional "language" - but she is also devoted to exploring its contemporary possibilities. As a vocalist, instrumentalist, and composer, Wu Fei is at home on festival stages, in jazzlike improvisational collaborations, and in concert halls.
Her interest in cross-genre and multicultural collaborations has led her to work with artists as diverse as avant-garde composer John Zorn, guitarist Fred Frith, and Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. With Washburn, Wu Fei is working on a banjo-zither collaboration that meshes Appalachian and Chinese folk tunes.

Festival weekend officially launches when Bloomington's favorite Swedish strings, Väsen, take the stage for the Lotus Kick-Off Concert at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. During intermission, Sam Bartlett and Rhino's youth present a Lotus Dickey cranky. Tickets at the Buskirk-Chumley Box Office.

EVENING SHOWCASES - Friday, September 29, and Saturday, September 30 Lotus Evening Showcases are the quintessential Lotus Festival experience. A ticket is traded for a wristband, which serves as the passport that gives attendees access to roam through multiple downtown venues to catch 25+ artists. Tickets at the Buskirk-Chumley Box Office.

LOTUS IN THE PARK - Saturday, September 30
Free to the public, Lotus in the Park offers all-ages fun from 12-5pm at Waldron, Hill & Buskirk Park (Third Street Park). Activities include hands-on art; live performances featuring Alash, Kaia Kater, The Outside Track, Ladama, and Sahba Motallebi & Naghmeh Farahmand; workshops with Danish visual artist Isabel Berglund; food by Bloomingfoods and Chocolate Moose; and a valet bike corral.

FESTIVAL PARADE - Saturday, September 30
Join the free procession led by Festival artist Raya Brass Band! Meet at 7th & Washington; ends at BCT

FESTIVAL ARTS VILLAGE - Friday, September 29, and Saturday, September 30

Free and open to the public from 6-10pm on both Festival evenings, the Arts Village is an entire block full of art installations, hands-on art-making, and live demos including chalk art, hula-hooping, "Welcoming Wall" exhibit by artist Joe LaMantia, readings by members of the Writers' Guild, "Light and Color Experience" interactive art, and a performances by the Breakdancing Club at IU.

FESTIVAL UNWIND YOGA - Sunday, October 1
Recharge and relax after a busy Festival weekend with multiple all-level practices are available, in partnership with local yoga studios and instructors. Free; donations accepted.

WORLD SPIRIT CONCERT - Sunday, October 1
Featuring music by Fareed Haque & Goran Ivanovic (US/Croatia) and Maria Pomianowska & Reborn (Poland). The "pin gets you in" - admission comes with the 2017 collectible Lotus pin, available for $5 from the Buskirk-Chumley Box Office, Festival Store, Bloomingfoods, or Landlocked Music.

For more information about the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, contact the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation: Email

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