The Shakori Hills family lost one of our most beloved members on Saturday, February 16.
James Olin Oden has been a festival regular for the past ten years. He first came as a fan and quickly got involved as a performer and even as a staff member for a short time.
His uniquely uplifting musical sound, a blend of his Irish and American roots, wisdom of all manner of subjects, and love of the GrassRoots family will be missed dearly.
Details of a memorial being planned for the Spring 2019 festival will be announced once they have been finalized.
In the meantime, we felt James’ words and music were the best way to honor the man. Below, enjoy a piece he wrote for the Spring 2018 program followed by some clips we thought helped capture his spirit.
slán leat, James
Shakori is Family
Originally printed in the Spring 2018 Festival Program.
written by James Olin Oden
When I first came to Shakori 10 years ago, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I knew that I was going to a music festival and there would be campfires, with lots of musicians, music lovers and artists all over the grounds. Well, in between all the fun and camaraderie, what I found was family.
We’re a peculiar family to be sure. Made of all kinds of different camps, many with names like Camp Sparkle, No Hope (and Know Hope), Rivendale, Frabjous, and Wayward Way to just name a few. There’s no rule that this should be; it just happens in a Grassroots kind of way. Each camp has its own peculiarities and proclivities, and we intermingle quite a bit, cross pollinating ideas and moments of utter silliness. Also, the camp decorations are something to behold. In Fall one of my favorites is the Festivarians site, where they have I think a 100 or so jack-o-lanterns hung in a grove.
The fires at each camp have always been a very central thing. We gather round and conversations flow freely as does music. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning we just sit and stare and breathe together. Not that we can’t do a Shakori without fire (we just did; it was hard, but we did it, together!), but they have always proven to be a central part of the event. Amongst the fires, rocks and trees of Shakori we live freely enjoying one another’s self-expression and our corporate expression as a group. We learn hard lessons about living with each other and allowing each other to breathe freely within the group. This is not to say there are no boundaries, we just work really hard to uphold the real boundaries and allow freedom wherever we possibly can. Because of this, we have all grown as one big Shakori family.
Every family has a vision, and at Shakori you see the music and dance flowing from the camps like many vibrant streams down to the stages forming a great river of music and dance. We gather at the stages forming a unity of both musicians and dancers flowing as one big pool of united humanity. It’s really amazing to observe. There are, also, workshops covering all kinds of things musical and cultural. Even these ultimately stem from the camps. Over the years I’ve seen many a person young and immature in their art (whether it be music, dance or those other media (-;) become strong leaders and find their way to stages and workshops. It’s a beautiful thing seeing your family grow.
None of this could happen without the staff, and they are a beautiful and integral part of this family we call Shakori. There is the board of directors that set the vision, the staff that handle the operations and booking, the rangers that look out for everyone’s safety, and the security that is there to ensure everyone has a good time. They all work in unison to make sure the festival keeps going. Add to that all the volunteers that put in so much hard work to make this thing come together (tents don’t raise themselves). It really is much like someone preparing a beautiful feast for all their friends. Great hospitality requires a great amount of work, and they do all this work selflessly for one big happy Shakori family.
So please do enjoy your time here. The land and the people of Shakori greet you with open arms.
Welcome to the family!
James Olin Oden Videos
James performs “Friend of the Devil” and “Uncle John’s Band” with his longtime playing partner Joey Arcuri on the Meadow Stage at the Fall 2013 festival.
Here James performs “Dance Right Out of My Grave”, a song he wrote about a performance by Driftwood, another Shakori Hills GrassRoots regular. This clip is from the DooDad Farm, our Greensboro friends down the road.
James would narrate a video of his arrival at Shakori Hills GrassRoots every year. His Spring 2016 video has the added bonus of his album “Deeper Dance” as the soundtrack and a glimpse into his horticulture knowledge.