From September 23-26, the streets of downtown Bloomington held audience to a rich syncopation of melodies: a host of musicians and performance groups came together in celebration of the achievements of fusion and cultural exchange through the annual Lotus World Music and Arts Festival. Since its founding in 1994, the festival organizes a series of performances to create an experience that is inclusive, informative, and delightfully entertaining, predicated on the mission statement of the Lotus Education & Arts Foundation: to create opportunities to experience, celebrate, and explore the diversity of the world’s cultures, through music and the arts.
Boasting a wide breadth of musical genres including artists from both Indiana-local and international scenes, Lotus Festival “has it all”, for musicologists looking to enjoy the newest influences from emerging artists as well as die-hard concert lovers that revel in the thrill of live performances. Each of the artists regale listeners with descriptions of instruments and techniques between sets and speak candidly on their own sources of inspiration through which their pieces breathe. Among those leaving their mark on the festival were musicians Tamir and Naizal Hargana and Brent Roman of the Mongolian-fusion group, Tuvergen Band. Each of the group members – owing to their unique musical specializations and cultural backgrounds – contributes distinct influences to the band’s fusion style. Tamir, the lead vocalist of the band, sings in the Khoomei technique of Mongolian throat singing, in which he utilizes a technique that produces several overtones and pitches at once. This vocal style mimics sounds and melodies ubiquitous in natural landscapes, such as the rush and babble of rivers, the robust din of wind along Steppe expanses, and the bellow of cattle resounding through a forest. For the band members, as Tamir himself puts it, the fusion of modern elements and traditional Mongol music is both refreshing and recognizable as homage to his roots: “for me, the music is a real and recognizable way to share Mongol culture, and people everywhere can be exposed and learn about it, no matter where they are”.
Attending a Tuvergen performance is a lesson in cultural exchange as well as a celebration of musical ingenuity; the band’s multi-percussionist, Brent Roman, devised a unique percussion setup that allows quick setup for concert circuits and the full range of elements necessary for an authentic Mongol-Tuvan sound. After the concert, the setup is quickly nested into a single briefcase – “-light enough to avoid airport fees, too!”, he adds –, and the multipercussion experience is localized merely within a few bags and instrument cases. The Chicago-local band is an excellent example of the wordless eloquence of tradition when expressed for audiences to enjoy, in keeping with the Lotus spirit that keeps Bloomington’s ears perked for sounds from the world over.