This weekend’s annual Lotus World Music and Arts Festival drew in crowds from much farther than Bloomington with its 35 musical acts from all over the world.
“I just love Lotus Fest,” volunteer Cynthia Port said. “It’s awesome to be involved and feel like you’re part of making it happen. I love the music, but I love the community aspect too.”
On Friday night, festival-goers gathered under the flashing lights of the Old National Bank Tent to hear the sounds of Israeli band A-Wa.
Lotus Director Sunni Fass said she was excited to see the band, which is composed of three sisters – Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim. Their musical style is a mixture of Yemenite folk music, electric tunes, reggae and hip-hop.
“It’s our first time here in Bloomington,” Tair Haim said at the beginning of the show. “We’re excited. Let’s celebrate.”
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Since the audience could not understand the lyrics of the music being sung, the Haim sisters explained the meanings of some songs to the crowd. One was a love song about jealousy.
“It means, if you aren’t going to be my man, you ain’t going to be with any other woman,” Tair said.
Later in the show, Tair explained the sisters’ heritage.
“Our grandparents came from Yemen, and we just fell in love with the Yeminite music and groove as little girls,” she said.
While A-Wa’s show was high energy, concertgoers had the opportunity to experience tranquil music as well. One of the venues used, the First Presbyterian Church, showcased English folk duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, who played two shows there Friday night.
Clarke and Walker’s setlist placed the old alongside the new and included songs from their new album “Overnight.”
“It’s pretty special for us to so early on in our career in the states to play a festival that’s that established and that has that many people coming to it,” she said. “We’re very lucky.”
In between songs, Clarke paused to address the crowd and often made dry jokes. However, the humor disappeared when she sang.
“I think feelings of joy, you go out and experience those and they’re not ones that necessarily need working through,” she said. “And I think the artistic process is quite cathartic in that it’s like a way of people working through some of the more difficult things in life.”
Concertgoer Sandy Martin said she was moved by Clarke’s performance.
“I loved it,” she said. “It was wonderful. I had tears in my eyes at the end.”
While the festival generally ran smoothly, Scandinavian folk duo My Bubba experienced technical difficulties during their Saturday night show. However, the group was able to play for a second time Sunday afternoon.
The names of members Guðbjörg Tómasdóttir, also known as Bubba, and Swede My Larsdotter combine to form the duo’s name, My Bubba.
The group has previously played at other world music festivals, but their show Saturday night marked their first performance at Lotus Festival. My said the experience has been a positive one.
“We are very interested in history and heritage and the anthropological part, even though our music can be categorized in many ways,” Bubba said. “It’s not specifically world music, but we do like that angle of it.”
My said one thing she particularly enjoyed about the festival was the inclusion of other female duos.
“Normally festivals, if they have a female duo, that’s like a box that they check off,” she said.
Between songs Saturday night, My made jokes to keep the tone of the show playful.
“I think this show is going to be more of a stand-up comedy act,” she said as audience members laughed.
Reggae artist Rocky Dawuni also provided an atmosphere of happiness during his shows on Friday and Saturday night.
“Last night was crazy too, good vibe and good energy,” Dawuni said. “For me, the people, the audience here everybody’s paying attention, everybody’s into the music, everybody’s having a great time. People are here for the experience, and I love that.”
Dawuni said he tries to include optimism in his lyrics, even if the subject matter is heavy.
“The lyrics come from having the opportunity to experience moments,” he said. “It’s just a matter of distilling the positive aspects of life. People’s stories, observations, headlines, things that move me within my heart.”
Throughout the concert, Dawuni asked festivalgoers to sing along with his lyrics.
“During the concerts, I try to use the medium to make people connect with each other, uplift people,” he said. “We all sing with each other, we all celebrate with each other and once that has been achieved, then I feel like my objective has been achieved.”