Indiana Daily Student

Vida highlights vocalists at Lotus Fest tonight

This year, more so than ever before, the Lotus Music Festival has managed to attract a high number of world class vocalists. \nAmong the list of vocalists at this year's festival is the group Vida. While many people might not find this name familiar, Vida is a group that has established itself as a force in the world of vocal music. The group will highlight its skills at 9 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 219 E. Fourth St. \nThis Bloomington-based band consists of four women in their mid-twenties. Moira Smiley, Stephanie Heidemann, Sarah Ferrell and Jessica Lewis are four IU graduates who share a passion for the art of vocal music. \nSmiley brought the group together in 1994 when she posted a notice for interested vocalists to perform at her house, and the four voice specialists got together. Their performances do not include any instrumental music. \n"We explore the voice. We all write our own songs but we also work together," Smiley said. \nThe group has been influenced and inspired by quite an eclectic range of musical traditions. "Our music is based on raw, powerful folk based traditions of Eastern Europe and the harmonies of Southern and Western Africa," Smiley said. "We've also been significantly influenced by Spanish and Appalachian music. We like rhythms that are asymmetrical and make you dance in a different way."\nThe thematic content of their music consists of material the four women and the audience can relate to. "We often sing about people's life stories. We sing a lot of American Gospel. We also raise a lot of questions about freedom in our songs," said Lewis, a native of New Zealand.\nLewis moved to the United States in 1991, and although she started out as a biology student at IU, she said she was always artistically inclined. \n"I'm a poet, I love to write," she said. "I admire and am influenced by the minimal imagery presented in the haiku. When I write songs, I try to portray this kind of brief, minimal imagery." \nThe group started out in 1995 performing at various universities. They learned to write original music using the traditions by which they were influenced. \nToday they are much more than a local group -- they have performed throughout the world. Their success resulted in a signing with International Management Group, which schedules their concerts and performs other managerial tasks for them.\nThe group is so well-known that they were invited to the Netherlands to perform at the Hague for a U.N. gathering last year. \n"It was great," Lewis said. "The audience response was awesome and the experience was unforgettable."\nBecause they rely solely on their voices, the group said keeping their voices in prime condition is imperative to their success. They manage to do this in a number of ways. \n"We drink a lot of herbal tea. We also keep in good physical shape while performing daily voice exercises," said Lewis. \nThe group said they have a higher purpose behind what they do. \n"Music is communication from a very individual, internal space expressed in an outward motion with a hesitation, anticipating a response in order to create the next moment," Heidemann said. \n"We try to make our music thought provoking," Smiley said. "We are after a sense of responsibility to move people towards music." \nThe musicians find the profession very rewarding and challenging at the same time. \n"We like travelling in a group and working together," Ferrel said. "It can be frustrating sometimes due to conflict of interests, but after everything is said and done, it is a very rewarding experience. Like sisters, we learn from each other."\nLewis summarized their collective philosophy concerning the art of music: "Music is a powerful force. There is something within the core of everyone of us which resonates with music of all different kinds. It is this universal nature of music that makes it so powerful"

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