5 Things To Know Ahead Of This Year’s Lotus Festival

Tips from the executive director on how to make the most of Bloomington’s annual celebration of art and world music.

This weekend,

the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival takes over downtown Bloomington. The four-day event, which attracts more than 12,000 attendees each year, hosts 26 musical artists at 10 venues around the city, ranging from churches to night clubs. We asked Lotus executive director Sunni Fass for some advice on how best to navigate the festival. Here are her suggestions:
1) Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Through the years, Lotus has welcomed performers from more than 120 countries. This year’s artists alone represent 20 nations, some as far away as Iran and Russia. What’s more, many of these acts are unknown in the States. “When people come to Lotus, it’s rare that anyone has heard of these artists,” says Fass. “Don’t let that intimidate you.”
2) Come together.
The diversity at Lotus doesn’t stop with the artists. People of all ages, races, and backgrounds come together to form what Fass calls an “everything audience.” People who would ordinarily never be in the same room together now have a chance to interact, converse, and experience new kinds of music together. Embrace that opportunity to connect with people from other cultures.
3) Keep an eye out for these artists
When asked whom she was most excited to see at this year’s festival, Fass laughed and equated it to being asked who her favorite child is. But, she did give some names to look out for:

  • Lo’ Jo: This French group first came to Lotus in 2000, and Fass says she has loved watching them over the years. Their music is a combination of North African, Gypsy, and French folk, making for a unique sound that cannot be heard anywhere else.
  • Sahba Motallebi and Naghmeh Farahmand: The former is a virtuoso on the tar and setar, traditional stringed instruments in Iran. The latter is the daughter of an Iranian percussion master who plays a variety of percussion instruments from all over the world. Together, they play a style of Iranian music that isn’t normally performed by women.
  • Betsayada Machado y La Parranda el Clavo: Machado is a famous singer from Venezuela, and she returned there to collaborate with her old friend Parranda El Clavo and record a style of music rarely heard outside of their country. The group has been praised by The New York Times and, now, will introduce their unique music to Indiana.

4) There’s more than just music.

We all know there’s plenty to be excited about musically at Lotus. But the fun doesn’t stop there. This weekend is filled with activities and entertainment for everyone, and a lot of it is free. Each night, starting on Friday, the festival’s Arts Village will host interactive installations, visual arts demonstrations, and hands-on activities.
On Saturday, Lotus in the Park will be free to the public. It includes musical performances, workshops, and arts-and-crafts. Later in the evening, there will be a parade running through downtown Bloomington where anyone can dress up, wave flags, and dance.
Finally, there will be a free yoga session on Sunday held at the Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center for a peaceful end to an exciting weekend. Later that afternoon, one last concert will be held at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. “Sunday has a quieter, more contemplative vibe,” Fass says.

Fun for all ages at the Lotus Festival art tent

5) There is no one “right way” to do Lotus.
That is Fass’s best piece of advice. “If you talk to 10 different people about their experience at Lotus, you’re going to hear about 10 different festivals,” she says. “And they are all correct.” Festival-goers can buy an all-inclusive package that lasts for the whole weekend, a pass that just covers a single night of concerts, or not get a ticket at all and just attend the free events. Some people study the festival lineup and meticulously plan which performances to see while others drift from show to show. Stay at one venue for the night and let a series of artists come to you, or leave in the middle of one show to go check out another. As Fass says, “Everybody can see everything at Lotus.”
Tickets to Lotus Festival are available online or in person at: Buskirk-Chumley Theater Box Office, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., 812-323-3020, Thur-Fri, 11 am – 6 pm; Sat -Sun, Noon – 5 pm