Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival embodies everything we stand for here at Steep In. In fact, it has profoundly shaped us. It’s not just a festival to go out in the woods and drop out for a weekend to party. Don’t get me wrong, Shakori is definitely a four-day-long party, but it’s much more. It’s a time to appreciate life for what it is and the community we can surround ourselves with.
Shakori truly has changed my life. Ever since I was introduced to it, I have begun to model my life after it. I don’t mean to say that I think it possible to spend my whole life dancing to music in the woods of Pittsboro. Although that does sound rather nice. Shakori Hills is a time to recharge, re-center, and refocus on the things that make life worth living. Obviously, here at Steep In we have a profound love of music and art. We see it as a means to connect and grow our own spirituality. But our main goal here is to help build up the community surrounding music and art, just as Shakori does.
I feel that the word “community” like many other, often used words can lose its meaning over time. So, I’d like to use my experience of Shakori as a reminder of some of the simple but wonderful aspects of community.
My friend Theo, who you may remember from my posts about Conscious Breathing, got to experience Shakori for the first time this year. He had the opportunity to teach breathing techniques in the healing arts area. When I found out that he hadn’t been to Shakori before, I immediately pulled him in for a hug and welcomed him to the family. He told me that had happened every time he mentioned to someone it was his first time. This warmth and acceptance is what we need in our lives.
Another important aspect of community that Shakori promotes is the power of just experiencing beauty and wonder with other human beings. This happens at every stage in a deeper way than I experience it at other shows. The crowd seems to dance as one. But this oneness extends beyond the dance floor.
I met a tree climber this Shakori, as I enjoyed a small collection of slacklines set up near the main stage. We talked for a while, but as I was walking the line he disappeared up a tree. As a climber myself, it seemed only right to follow him. We scurried up into the branches of a tree on the edge of middle earth.
From our vantage point we could easily hear both the main stage and Carson’s Grove stage down the hill. It was a beautiful perspective of the festival. I was reminded, as I often am at Shakori, how distinctly primatial humans are. We hooted to passers-by down below, and their response came back immediately, spread out into the woods, and faded. It’s a simple and primal joy to communicate camaraderie through guttural sounds.
We sat in the tree for quite a while just getting to know one another and taking in the sights and sounds. Though we didn’t know each other well, it was nice to just exist together for a while and take in the failing light and watch the clouds. It’s far too easy to get caught up in ourselves and our own nuance of experience, only to forget how similar to one another we actually are. How easy it is to actually enjoy the same simple pleasures of life.
It seems to me that stories told and memories made around camp fires are just as big a part of the magic of Shakori as the music and art.
The opening ceremonies set the tone for a weekend filled with community. The whole weekend was kicked off by Kinobe & the Dance of Hope, A Ugandan Music and Dance group. The beats were very tribal and communal. The melodies flowed from a kora, along with other traditional Ugandan instruments, but what really struck me was the percussion. Throughout the performance the dancer took part in the percussion, playing drums and striking hollowed gourds. The allure of this music to me was the presence of the slight echo that comes from having so many participants. Each drummer has his own tiny imperfection in rhythm, which adds depth to the overall beat. The sense of individuals coming together to make one sound was palpable I was left with no other choice but to join in and Dance.
The sense of Individuals coming together to make one big beautiful gathering lasted all the way to the end of the festival, when Donna the Buffalo put on the traditional ALL-STAR JAM, inviting various performers from the weekend to jam with them on stage.
It is our mission here at Steep In to spread the magic and love that is so obviously alive in the those who attend Shakori, and to spread it out into our daily lives. Music and Art are the out-pouring of the emotional; that is why it attracts such a communal feeling. It allows a large group to experience the same emotional ride for a time. Let’s learn from Shakori and share more experiences with one another “in the real world.”