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Lower Town brings first international performer to festival

Kaihulu will be the Lower Town Arts and Music Festival's first international performer.
Courtesy of Paducah Convention and Visitor Bureau
Kaihulu will be the Lower Town Arts and Music Festival's first international performer.

Editor’s Note: WKMS is one of the sponsors of the Lower Town Arts & Music Festival.

The annual Lower Town Arts and Music Festival, hosted by Paducah’s Yeiser Art Center, returns this weekend with dozens of performers and artists showcasing their craft in the far western Kentucky city’s arts district.

Among the performers is Kaihulu – a reggae fusion band hailing from Ambon, Indonesia. Kaihulu will be the first international music group to perform at Lower Town. The Indonesian band is teaming up with local bluegrass band The Wheelhouse Rousters to perform a set Friday evening.

The two bands, along with Paducah's Yeiser Art Center executive director Lexie Millikan, connected at a UNESCO Creative City event last October in Jinju, South Korea. Kaihulu member Mark Ufie said the two groups had a break between performances and started jamming. From there, he could see the potential for the groups’ collaboration.

“For us, music is a global language. Universal, like, as simple as you tell me, ‘What's the key? G.’ And we can collaborate. As simple as that,” Ufie said. “I love that we use music as a media to share positivity.”

The Wheelhouse Rousters’ folk and bluegrass music roots may not seem a natural companion to Kaihulu’s reggae fusion — which Ufie said combines ethnic music and reggae style to represent the culture of the Indonesian province Maluku. While the two specialize in different styles, Kaihulu’s Ronny Loppies said their cross-pollination has a lot of potential.

“We can make a new one, a new genre, you know… to mix country and ethnic reggae music,” Loppies said. “We don't only talk about genre, but in music, we talk about harmony. So that is why it’s [a] very good collaboration for us. We are very happy to come here and then make a collaboration for the music.”

Millikan said it is a special opportunity to highlight Kaihulu and connect Paducah with Ambon, a fellow UNESCO Creative City.

“It's really important for the Lower Town Arts and Music Festival to incorporate an international group. Because we're a UNESCO Creative City of Craft and Folk Art, collaborating with a UNESCO creative city of music is a really special thing.”

Millikan said the festival would not be possible without the support of community members and partners who recognize the importance of art.

Ufie said he wants to take this community-led festival experience back to Ambon.

Lower Town Arts and Music Festival is taking place in Paducah Friday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Kaihulu and The Wheelhouse Rousters will perform on Friday at 7:15 p.m. Kaihulu will also perform at the festival on Saturday at 7:45 p.m. and will be at the Bluegrass Jam at Paducah Beer Werks on Sunday at 6:45 p.m.

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
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