“You might be standing still right now, but you won’t be for long.”
A Lotus World Music and Arts Festival volunteer introduced Forgotten Tribe, an Indianapolis-based hip-hop, soul and reggae band to an eager audience on Saturday. On the third day of the 29th annual Lotus Festival, bands from all around the world gathered in Bloomington to share music and culture with the community.
At the Lotus Local Stage on the corner of Kirkwood Avenue and Lincoln Street, listeners gathered in the intersection to hear from Indiana bands. Forgotten Tribe — who performed at the Local Stage — was met with cheers from Bloomington natives, IU students and families as they crowded into the blocked intersection. Some sat on curbs and on the edges of flowerbeds, while others stood around and danced.
Cathy Rountree swayed and bobbed her head to the beat. Rountree lived in Bloomington between the ‘60s and the ‘80s, but now she lives in Nashville, Indiana. Still, Rountree said she returns every year to visit the Lotus Festival — and plans to come back for as long as she can.
“It's just so awesome to see so many different kinds of people,” Rountree said. “Different nationalities, different ages. I mean, look at this age range.”
Older couples danced along to the reggae and ran into friends. Nearby, a young mother tried to keep up with her 3-year-old daughter as she weaved through the audience. For Rountree, it’s this diversity that makes Lotus Festival beautiful.
“I feel like if we could all just listen to each other's music, that all the problems of the world would go away,” Rountree said.
Nearby, families gathered on Sixth Street at the Lotus Arts Village. Visitors were able to walk through the Archaeopteryx, an arch sculpture with lights that debuted at the Burning Man Festival in 2019. Hula hoops and sidewalk chalk were scattered around the pavement for kids. Women Writing for (a) Change led a crafting and writing activity in one tent. In another tent, the Bloomington Piano Project invited guests to decorate a white piano with markers and stencils.
IU graduate student Tom Agger volunteered with the piano project, which places decorated, donated pianos around public spaces in Bloomington to make musical instruments accessible to everyone. Agger explained the project to visitors and helped decorate the piano with them.
“It's an awesome project,” Agger said. “I love being in a train station or something when there’s a piano there and just hearing a random person playing it. I hope to see more of that in Bloomington.”
On Saturday, 20 different performers took the stage at venues across Bloomington. Musical styles spanned from Champeta and Highlife to nu-folk and Afropop. Artists performed traditional Columbian, Indian, Romani, Balkan, Venezuelan, Vietnamese and Arabic music, among several others. The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, the Toronto-based folk-punk ensemble, led this year’s Lotus Festival parade Saturday night starting in the Lotus Arts Village.
The festival closed out on Sunday afternoon with performances by Feddersen, Gourley and Miller along with Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Traditional Celtic musicians Fedderson, Gourley and Miller took the stage first. Laura Feddersen, a Bloomington native, is based out of Boston today, where she and Nathan Gourley perform as a fiddling duo.
On Sunday, the band played traditional Irish and Scottish tunes and bantered with the audience about the song’s histories. Brian Miller, the group’s guitarist, joked that the protagonist of traditional Celtic song “Lovely Annie” is more antisocial than romantic, despite the song’s reputation. Throughout its performance, the trio stomped its feet in unison with the upbeat, high-spirited music.
Next, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash performed classical Indian sarod. The brothers are part of the seventh generation of musical lineage from the Senia Bangash School. On Sunday, the pair performed with percussionist Avirodh Sharma.
The musicians explained that classical Indian music doesn’t follow a written score but is rather built on improvisation. Throughout the evening, the performers looked at each other to sense the rhythm, or closed their eyes to focus on the sound of the music.
“Whatever happens, happens right here, right now,” Ayaan Ali Bangash said.
He began by dedicating the performance to Gandhi and his message of nonviolence and peace, which the musician said is needed in the world today.
“Bloomington always feels like homecoming,” Ayaan Ali Bangash said, “It's always wonderful to be back in this beautiful town and this wonderful festival.”
Yaël Ksander, Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design communications director welcomed the audience to the performance, saying it was a pleasure to have the Lotus Festival at its fullest capacity after the pandemic put a damper on recent years’ events.
“It's such a high to be gathered here together in person again, for that irreplaceable experience of live music,” Ksander said to the audience. “I hope you leave with wonderful memories and great music in your heart, as well as on your Spotify playlist.”
Ksander asked the audience to raise their hands if they’d been to all 29 years of the festival – five audience members held their hands high and were met with roars of encouragement from the crowd. Many of the audience members raised their hand to show they had been going to the festival for at least a decade.
“It’s special to bring the world to Bloomington,” Ksander said. “And to bring our special Bloomington to the world.”