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Lotus Festival

Heavy rain on Friday night and early Saturday afternoon didn’t stop thousands of people from attending the 2016 Lotus World Music Festival in downtown Bloomington this past weekend. The festival, now in its 23rd year, ran from September 15 through September 18. This year, the IAUNRC was proud to sponsor performances by three groups: Söndörgo (Hungary), Aallotar (Finnish-American Folk), and Anda Union (Mongolia). Both Aallotar and Söndörgo gave multiple performances throughout the weekend. Anda Union only performed one set on Saturday evening.

The Finish-American female folk band Aallotar serenaded audiences in Bloomington’s First Presbyterian Church with songs that pay tribute to their common Finnish roots. Finnish-American violinist Sara Pajunen (Minneapoils) and Finnish accordionist Teija Niku (Helsinki) released their first album, "In Transit," in 2014. Since their initial collaboration, Allotar has given performances throughout the world, performing most recently at European festivals this summer. According to the band’s website, the music of Aallotar “…pays tribute to Pajunen and Niku's respective cultures, which — although they pulsate with many of the same values and energy of 100 years ago — have grown apart.” Audiences at both the Friday and Saturday performances were serenaded with songs in both English and Finnish.

On Friday and Saturday night, Buskirk-Chumley Theater was filled with the sounds of Söndörgo, a popular Hungarian band whose members grew up in a Serbian community in Budapest. Söndörgo is a five-member Tamburitza band. Each with his own style, the musicians charmed the audience with both fast dance tracks as well as the slow and calming sounds of the drum. Their work revolves around a stringed instrument called the tambura, which resembles the mandolin. Their music ranges from fast upbeat songs to slow peaceful drum beats. Söndörgo cherishes traditional sounds but also tries to add vigor and buoyancy to their work. Centered on southern Slavic music traditions, Söndörgo brings an exciting and fiery pace to the audience. The reaction of the audience was fitting to the band’s performance. Dancing, clapping and high spirited cheering added so much more energy to the already immensely exuberant performance of the Hungarian band.

The 10-member Mongolian band Anda Union also played Saturday night to a full house at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. The musical act opened with a song featuring khoomei vocalization, which is traditional Mongolian throat singing. All members of the band have been trained in traditional Mongolian music from a very young age, and Saturday they played a variety of instruments that would have been familiar to those who traveled the ancient Silk Road, including the tob shur (Mongolian lute), the morin khuur (horsehead fiddle), and various percussion instruments. Early in the production, member Biligbaatar, dressed in bright orange traditional Mongolian garb, came onto the stage and began dancing. His energy inspired other audience members to stand and clap along with the music. Anda Union was the festival’s 2016 Kat Domingo Memorial Artist, an honor given in memory of Dr. Katherine “Kat” Domingo. Domingo, who passed in 2011, had a diverse background in choral music and was an advocate for all world music.