Native American Musician’s Surreal Journey in the Oscar Race

Native American Musician’s Surreal Journey in the Oscar Race

Scott George, an Osage Native American, composed a song for Martin Scorsese’s film, Killers of the Flower Moon, competing against Billie Eilish and Mark Ronson.

George resides in Oklahoma, USA, where he focuses on finding affordable housing for Native American families during the week and performs at Osage festivals on weekends. His routine will soon be interrupted by a trip to Los Angeles for the Oscars, where his song for Scorsese’s film is competing for an award, notably against Billie Eilish and Mark Ronson. Describing the sudden disruption to his daily life, George told AFP, “I think we could use the word surreal.”

George is a member of the Osage Native American people, whose tragic history is central to the plot of Killers of the Flower Moon, Scorsese’s new film. The film recounts the murders of Osage people in early 20th century Oklahoma to exploit their oil wealth. The dark story seems like fiction but is based on real events.

The film is nominated for ten Academy Awards and will be screened on March 10. Its soundtrack was composed by Robbie Robertson, who is of Native American descent. However, Scorsese also wanted an authentic Osage song to conclude the film.

George recalled how a fellow musician noticed Scorsese in the audience during a traditional dance ceremony. “I was like, ‘Oh wow, he’s looking at us,'” said George, “So when he asked us if we could do the song (for the film), we knew what he wanted.” Initially hesitant due to many Osage songs containing names of ancient warriors, George finally agreed to compose an original song for the film after discussions with the team. The resulting song, Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People), is a powerful anthem that encourages the Osage people to stand up and be proud after enduring so much.

The film and song have been a boon for the elders, who are using them to educate younger generations about their history and remind them that “we are not relics” of the past, according to Geoffrey Standing Bear, the chief of the Osage Nation.

Being shortlisted for 15 titles at the Oscars was already a significant achievement for the team. The announcement of the song’s nomination in the best song category was an added bonus. “It’s great, isn’t it?” Lily Gladstone, a Native American actress, told AFP, “It was so important to me that an Osage person be named.” George is more pragmatic, stating “Making music for my people makes me happy.” He appreciates the recognition of this style of music often depicted comically in cartoons as a legitimate art form. “We understand that it’s a niche, and it probably always will be a little bit. But I hope people can listen to it and feel all the energy,” he said.

While it’s not yet confirmed, George may perform his song at the ceremony, a tradition for artists nominated in this category. In the meantime, he has already attended several prestigious events in Hollywood, where he met “rivals” like Billie Eilish and Jon Batiste. “The other day on a Zoom call we were all together and I was a little amazed. I wondered who these people were and what I was doing here,” he said with a smile.

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