BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
Ancient Sanskrit texts were not common in turn-of-the-century southern Indiana—certainly not within one-room log cabins housing families with five kids. But in a particular Orange County home on Grease Gravy Road in 1911, a farmer came upon a passage of Hindu scripture:
A man who relinquishes attachment
and dedicates actions to the infinite spirit
is not stained by evil,
like a lotus leaf unstained by water.
Moved by the image of the unblemished lotus, the farmer gave the name to his newborn son: Lotus Dickey.
Many decades later, when a group of people met in Bloomington to plan a world music festival, the image of the lotus would surface again. It began with reference to Lotus Dickey himself, who by this time had lived and died, writing and performing songs throughout nearly all his 78 years (though he was only “discovered”—by IU folklorists—in his late 60s).
For the festival organizers, though, it wasn’t only Dickey and his heartfelt, guileless music that argued for the name. It was also that same association between the lotus flower and an “infinite spirit” unbound to any culture, time, or place. When the group created the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival in 1994, it was in both recognition and anticipation of the unlikely connections between small-town Indiana and the most inspiring traditions from around the world.
Tips for Attending Lotus
With seven venues simultaneously offering the best music from around the world, attendees are spoiled for choice. How can you know where to go? Below, Lotus insiders offer their expert tips on making the most of your Lotus weekend.
“Don’t make the mistake of coming to see just one artist. If you’re locked into seeing specific shows, you eliminate the possibility of surprises and you’re not experiencing the event at its fullest. Be relaxed about your approach, and don’t waste your time in line – if there’s a line to get in, go elsewhere.”—Luanne Holladay, Lotus marketing director
“You can’t see everything, and if you focus on that it will disappoint you bitterly. There’s at least one band every year that you don’t get to see that everyone talks about afterward. The solution is staying put as much as you can and really enjoying the moment.”—Steve Volan, former Lotus organizing committee member
“If you want to see as much as possible and there are two shows happening at the same time, start with the one that’s not your usual type of music. That way you take the chance and experience something new first, knowing you can move on to the sure thing.”—Tamara Loewenthal, Lotus volunteer coordinator
“Don’t second-guess yourself. If you like what you’re hearing, stay put. And also please remember that Walnut does not close to traffic, and be aware of where you are walking.”—Lee Williams, Lotus executive and artistic director
“We just want people to dance their assess off, enjoy, and listen to the message of the music, which is to work toward world peace.”—Ori Kaplan, Balkan Beat Box
Be sure to check out our YouTube playlist of many of the artists mentioned! To begin our playlist, here is a video of the band on our cover—Movits!