Shakori Festival: Everything from drum circles to bluegrass

Mickey Hart would have been proud. The Grateful Dead percussionist often advocates drumming as a form of community building and therapy. Percussionist and teacher Fabi led a drum session at the Cabaret Tent Friday during the second day of the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance.

Fabi came to the session while four drummers were already playing a rhythm together. “Nice warm-up, guys,” Fabi said after they finished. Fabi then showed them how to make three different sounds with a hand drum — an open tone, a closed tone using the edge of the drum skin, and a mute tone created by hitting the drum while the other hand is placed on the skin. He also showed how to use the legs and other body parts to make percussive sounds.

Fabi, who teaches in the Jamaican drumming tradition, then led the group in a series of “stories.” The group kept a basic rhythm going, while each member of the group then did variations on the beat. Festival participants played djembe drums, bongos and other hand drums. One man hit a bottle with a metal tool, and one woman used her body and the floor of the tent space as percussion.

Philip Owens, who was playing a djembe, was spending his fourth year at Shakori. “I just goof off,” he said of his drumming. “If we have a drum circle, I’ll go,” he said.

The drum circle was among the many workshops in dance, movement and music that were available Friday. The stage performances were also getting underway Friday. As Fabi led the drum circle, visitors could hear the sounds of the a cappella trio Bare Bones coming from the nearby Meadow Stage.


At the Carson’s Grove stage, the GrassRoots Fiddle, Banjo, Guitar and Mandolin Competition was underway. Banjo player Krista LeClair won second place last year, and signed up to perform. She has played banjo for about two years, mainly for fun at fiddlers’ conventions and with friends. “My dad played banjo when I was growing up,” LeClair said. She thought playing banjo was “nerdy, until I grew up.”

Guitarist Chloe Lang also was signed up to perform. She and her sister Jessie are the duo The Lang Sisters, and both sisters performed on stage with a local bluegrass group during the contest.

David Thornberry, banjo, and Corey Johnson-Erday, guitar, were waiting to go on stage. Thornberry plays at Shakori and at other music conventions, and has been playing about 30 years, he said. He also comes to Shakori’s annual Hoppin’ John Festival, and will play in his 11th festival in the fall, he said.

Johnson-Erday’s father is Randy Johnson, who plays at festivals around the state and region. Johnson-Erday grew up on the festival circuit. He was getting ready to play a finger-style original composition for the audience. “I do finger style, but I was trained classically in high school,” he said.

Festivalgoers praised the festival for being family-friendly, and for the music. Christa Vilas was spending her second year camping at the festival. She enjoys “the live music, being outdoors .., [and the] very open all-inclusive environment.”

Carrie Brice has been going to the festival for 13 years. She and her friend Beth Mendenhall said their children grew up going to the festivals with them. Brice was first attracted to the festival because of a performance by Holy Ghost Tent Revival, “but I always like to find new artists too,” she said.

The festival continues through Sunday at Shakori Hills Community Arts Center, 1439 Henderson Tanyard Road, in Pittsboro in Chatham County. For tickets, schedules and more information, visit shakorihillsgrassroots.org.

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