Q & A: Lotus executive director discusses the festival's past and present



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Trio Da Kali performs in the Mandé griot tradition of southern Mali. Trio Da Kali will perform on Sept. 29 from 10:45 p.m. to midnight at the Ivy Tech Community College Tent and Sept. 30 at 9 to 10:15 p.m. at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Sunni Fass is the executive director of the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival. The festival will take place this weekend from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 in downtown Bloomington. Fass spoke with the Indiana Daily Student about her responsibilities, past festival experiences and favorite parts of Lotus.  

IDS: When did you become executive director of Lotus Festival?

Fass: This will be my fourth year. I started in Jan. 2014. However, I’ve been involved as a volunteer and intern when I was in graduate school in Bloomington, starting in 2001. 

IDS: What do you love about Lotus Festival?

Fass: I love the way Lotus brings people together internationally, culturally and locally. It is incredibly important to have this international dialogue, and there are not many formal entities like this around anymore. We involve about 600 volunteers, and we have so many people who are so invested in what this festival represents. 

IDS: What is the audience like at Lotus?

Fass: Our audience is very multi-generational. There are 8-year-old kids dancing with their grandmothers, and every age in between. It brings people from all backgrounds and all lifestyles, which is very rare, as well. 

IDS: When was your first Lotus Festival experience? What was it like?

Fass: It was in 2001. I remember that very vividly because that was around the time of 9/11. I had been working for another arts organization in the Washington D.C. area, and someone told me to look up Lotus, and I immediately volunteered. Almost half of the artists couldn’t come because they couldn’t travel. It almost got canceled, but I am very proud that the organization didn’t cancel. The audience came, and the artists that could get there came. It was very moving to see this during such a tragedy.

IDS: Who are you most excited about coming to the festival this year?

Fass: The scholarly side of me is very excited to see the Iranian female duo Sahba Motallebi and Naghmeh Farahmand. They are playing instruments and music that women traditionally don’t play, and they are kind of revolutionary in that regard. 

IDS: What do you do during the festival?

Fass: During the festival I have a cell phone in one hand and a two-way radio in the other, usually talking to someone face to face while this is happening. It is a huge event so there are thousands of moving parts. There is always logistics and small issues, so I am running around putting out fires. In most cases when the music actually starts, I get to take a bit of a deep breath.

IDS: What can people look forward to at this year's festival?

Fass: I am very excited to welcome back Väsen to Bloomington, a Swedish band playing our opening concert. They have been to Bloomington many times and have a very special relationship with Lotus. I am very excited about all of our artists, though. 

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