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Thursday, April 18
The Indiana Daily Student

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The 30th annual Lotus Festival celebrates diversity in music Friday


“How many people do I have out there that have been to all 30?” asked the announcer. “We’ve got one guy here, anybody want to buy him a beer?”  

Laughter rang out from the crowd gathered in the shade of the Fourth Street Stage. They had squeezed in to watch the first performance of the second night of the Lotus Festival. Before introducing Grey Larsen and Cindy Kallet — known for their unique blend of Irish and old-time traditional American music — the announcer, Brother William Morris, got the energy up as he thanked everyone for attending the evening’s festivities. 

The Lotus Festival, celebrating its 30th year, invites a diverse mix of performers and musicians to share the beauty of every culture and form of expression. Festival goers were given the option of six different venues across Bloomington ranging from indoor to outdoor, each featuring a different musical act. 

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At the First Christian Church venue, the Madalitso Band — a duo from Malawi, Africa — kept audience members swaying and bopping their heads with their infectious toe-tapping music. Their unconventional instruments consisted of an acoustic guitar, foot drum and a one-stringed banjo-like instrument called a babatone. As they played, a little girl in a floral romper danced in the front row, with sequins glued on her cheeks to match her mother’s. Other audience members simply closed their eyes and took in the rhythm. 

Outside, patrons roamed the darkening streets, pausing for a quick bite from the numerous local food trucks along Kirkwood Avenue as they searched for their next musical venue. Some settled on the Trinity Episcopal Church venue featuring Eleanor and Dario, a duo specializing in multilingual original songs as well as interpretations of classical pieces from Spain, France and Portugal. 

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The church was dark, except for the overhead lights illuminating the stage, commanding the audience’s attention to the front of the room. In the intimate quiet of the church, Eleanor Dubinsky and Dario Acosta Teich showcased their unique musical abilities. 

“In a space like this you can really see people’s faces, people smiling, it creates a return of energy which makes everything better,” Dubinsky said. “Also, because this is a church, the acoustics of this place are really special.” 

The duo used the reverberating acoustics of the high ceilings to their musical advantage, retaining control of the energy in the room. Such control was evident in the silence during an original, tender love song, then in the rollicking song that followed, encouraging the audience to clap along. The clapping and slight laughter that followed whenever someone was offbeat echoed across the arched ceiling, creating a sense of musical community only experienced at the Lotus Festival. 

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Dubinsky had worked with the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation in the past and saw the music festival as a reminder of the cultural melting pot that defines our world. 

“We are all a mixture of roots, we live in a world of mix, and we forget that,” Dubinsky said. “It’s a reflection of the truth which is that we all live together and nobody’s one thing.” 

Just a few blocks further down Kirkwood Avenue, the lights of the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre burned bright, cutting through the cool night with their low hum. Through the air, the faint sounds of music from outdoor stages and from behind closed doors mixed with the chatter and laughter from festival goers mingling in the streets in between sets. 

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Festival goers were of all ages – children were carried by parents, older patrons tapped their canes along with the music, college students posed for pictures. The demographic was wide and some, like Natilia Sonia, were even visiting from out of state. 

Having grown up in Bloomington, Sonia was a longtime patron of the Lotus Festival. Though she’s since moved away, she comes back year after year for the fun and diverse music and performances.  

“In areas like Indiana, it can get very homogenous culturally,” Sonia said, “There’s a lot of value in opportunities to experience things outside the homogeneity.” 

The Lotus Festival began Thursday and performances will continue through Sunday. A full list of the artists that participated and more information about the festival can be found on the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation website.

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