Ongtupqa Review by World Music Central

The Powerful Serenity of Ongtupqa, Sacred Music of the Hopi Tribe

July 18, 2019 by T.J. Nelson

Stripped bare but for flute, rattles, rasp, gourd, clay wind whistle, clay pot percussion and vocals Ongtupqa Sacred Music of the Hopi Tribe more than fills Grand Canyon National Park’s Desert View Watchtower where it was recorded during a single night with no second takes.

Set for release on July 26th on the ARC Music label, Ongtupqa is a precious listen into sacred Hopi song by way of Clark Tenakhongva, a Hopi Third Mesa traditional singer, Gary Stroutsos, a Seattle, Washington based flutist and composer and Matthew Nelson, an ethnomusicologist, host of Tucson’s KXCI’s program Global Rhythm Radio and the trio’s clay pot percussionist.

On this recording where a flute might sound like the call of a bird or a gust of wind, where a voice might summon up memories of the rush of a storm or an ancestor’s call from the distant past and the gentle thudding percussion of a clay pot might suggest the distant rumble of thunder or the rustle of a footstep on the path, Ongtupqa firmly and squarely roots listeners to the earth and sky in this elegant call into the wild in the hopes it will stay that way. Ongtupqa is spiritually soulful and intensely meditative with not a hint of modern New Age frippery.

Ongtupqa takes listeners through spare, beautiful tracks like “Butterfly Clouds,” the flute instrumental “Place of Emergence” and Mr. Tenakhongva ‘s song about the flight of the butterflies among the watermelon flowers on “Butterflies Are Free” before launching into the truly stunning pairing of “Rolling Thunder” and “Rain of Life.”

There’s also the vocal and rattle centered “Thank You My Fathers,” the lovely haunting solo flute of the Mr. Stroutsos composition “Vasey’s Paradise” and the lovely “Raindrops” to lure listeners.

Ongtupqa’s stunningly powerful serenity glides in on a voice, a breath passing over a flute, the rasp of a rattle and fingertips against a clay pot. Beautiful.

Matthew Nelson