How ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Singer Scott George Became the First Osage Oscar Nominee for Original Song

TheWrap magazine: His stirring climactic song “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)” was a surprise nomination for Martin Scorsese’s epic

A scene from "Killers of the Flower Moon" (Apple)
A scene from "Killers of the Flower Moon" (Credit: Apple)

There was little doubt on Oscar nomination day that we’d hear the name “Lily
” and the phrase “first Native American Best Actress nominee” as
people discussed the nominations for Martin Scorsese’s Oklahoma-set, 1920s
drama “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

But musician and composer Scott George, despite turning up on the Best Original Song shortlist in December for his climactic song “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People),” still seems surprised that his name was uttered that morning, when he became the first Native American man and member of the Osage Nation to be nominated in the Best Original Song category.

“Even to this day, I’m not finding words to explain or express it,” said the soft spoken George. “We had tuned into a morning show, and they drag it out for a good 45 minutes. So I’m sitting here, getting dressed, I’m supposed to be at a
meeting two hours away. And I’m waiting, waiting, waiting. I get a text from Chad Renfro, who is our tribal liaison with Apple [which distributed the film]. And he said, ‘You made the nomination.’”

George is part of a troupe of Oklahoma-based Osage talent and has been singing Native music for more than 40 years. “As traditional singers, we were kind of shy about getting involved in it,” he said. “And I say that because for most of our music, we don’t ask for it to be recorded. We don’t like to be copied and things like that, so we kind of keep to ourselves.”

But George was assured of Scorsese’s respect for Osage tradition after the director attended some of their local dances. The composer gave Scorsese hundreds of possibilities from the music he’d made with his colleagues, and the director chose “Wahzhazhe” because it gelled with posthumous nominee and Six Nations-raised musician Robbie Robertson’s tribal-infused score.

George said the film could have used existing Osage music, but they decided to compose a new song because the old dances “just don’t have the same feeling that we think [Scorsese] wanted.” George’s track concludes the film, accompanied by a magnificent bit of cinematography from the also-nominated Rodrigo Prieto. The camera is on a crane, which rises above a drum to reveal an Osage tribe performing “Wahzhazhe.”

The camera looks down on a circle of musicians and singers that appear to be creating the flower moon of the film’s title. The sequence serves as a cleansing after what has been a harrowing journey, and it ends the film with the Native American perspective.

A scene from “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple)

“We were kind of clueless as to how that was going to come about or how that was going to look,” said George, who appears in the scene as the lead singer of the troupe. “But we did have a couple of issues while they were raising the camera. Our sticks came in close contact with the camera that hovered over our ground. We had to watch what we were doing there. So it was tight, and there’s the lighting and shadows and all that stuff. But it was really kind of fun, though it was on one of the hottest days of the month in Oklahoma, which is known for its sweltering heat days.”

George is relishing the opportunity the nomination will bring for Osage visibility in the arts. But he weighed his options carefully when asked if more film and TV work is in his future. “I’ve been singing for 40-plus years, and I consider myself on the tail end of that life,” he said. “It takes a lot out of you to sit there and drum, let’s say, from noon to five o’clock, and then come back after dinner and do it again till midnight. It takes a lot out of your arm or your lungs and everything else. So to get involved in something like that, it would just have to be the right situation.”

This story first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read more of the issue here.

Down to the Wire, TheWrap Magazine - February 20, 2024
Illustration by Rui Ricardo for TheWrap


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