Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance celebrates musical eclecticism

Musicians warm up for a music competition at the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance in this 2015 file photo.
Musicians warm up for a music competition at the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance in this 2015 file photo. The Herald-Sun, 2015 file photo

Durham recently celebrated the fourth Art of Cool Festival — a jazz festival that also celebrates funk and related styles. Later this month, Durham will host Moogfest for the second year. Michael Stipe, Zola Jesus and Talib Kweli are among the performers at this annual festival dedicated to electronic music and Robert Moog, inventor of the synthesizer that bears his name.

The Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance, a more established festival, returns Thursday, May 4 and continues through Sunday, May 7 at Shakori Hills Community Arts Center in Chatham County. This is the 15th year for the festival, which is held in the fall and spring.

The Shakori Hills Festival, held on a farm near Pittsboro, has a different feel from other spring festivals. Music is all around, and not just from scheduled performers on the festival’s four stages. Many festivalgoers bring their musical instruments, and can be seen playing on the grounds during the festival. Anyone can sign up to perform in two stage shows — the GrassRoots Fiddle, Banjo, Guitar, Mandolin Competition (held Friday) and the GrassRoots Band Contest (held Saturday), featuring bluegrass and other traditional music. The rules for the Friday fiddle competition are not set in stone: One year, the event included a kora player.

The inclusion of the kora player is just one example of this festival’s musical eclecticism. Stage performers play traditional American music, but listeners also can hear traditional music from Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and other cultures. Performers at this week’s festival representing traditional American music are the Williamson Brothers Bluegrass Band, The Five Points Rounders, Big Fat Gap, and Rivers, among others.

In other musical traditions, Muningu is a four-piece group from the Republic of Congo who refer to their sound as “African jazz fusion.” Muningu has performed at international music festivals, and have recently set down roots locally. Aurelio Martinez is a Honduran musician who plays the traditional music of the Garifuna people, descendants of West Africa who live on the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Martinez also will be giving a music workshop at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Uma Galera from Miami play a fusion of reggae, funk, rock and other genres that they call “world soul music.” Big Mean Sound Machine, from Ithaca, New York returns to the festival with their fusion of Latin and other styles.

Other returning performers and festival favorites include Donna the Buffalo, the Apple Chill Cloggers, The Beast, the Bulltown Strutters, Orquesta GarDel, and the Hoppin’ Johnnies, a band that grew out of Shakori Hills’ annual fiddlers’ and bluegrass festival held in the fall.

Other festival traditions include the annual Saturday parade by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention troupe, and the Shakori Hills Vinyl Lounge, where DJs play dance music in the evening. Among the lounge DJs will be Dom Pearce, Khaleeb, and Selector B Steady.

Besides performances, this festival also offers a wealth of workshops and classes. Dance workshops include lessons in flamenco, Cajun, swing dance, Zydeco and other styles. In music workshops, the Carolina Ukulele Ensemble will lead a class in an arrangement of the Fleetwood Mac song “The Chain.” Visitors are encouraged to bring their ukuleles to this session.

Bare Bones A Cappella will lead a singing workshop; Aaron Burdett will lead a songwriting session, and Dwight Hawkins will teach a workshop on making musical sounds with everyday objects.

For a complete schedule of workshops, visit shakorihillsgrassroots.org/workshops/.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1

Go & Do

WHAT: Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance

WHEN: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 4-7

WHERE: Shakori Hills Community Arts Center, 1439 Henderson Tanyard Road, Pittsboro

ADMISSION: For information about different passes and camping, call 919-542-8142 or visit shakorihillsgrassroots.org/tickets-info/