The musicians of Öngtupqa recording
Based in Grand Canyon, AZ
Website: ongtupqa.com

“All of the music we create is inspired by a spirit of place. The organic soundscapes of Öngtupqa are intended to complement cultural landscapes like Grand Canyon, Hopi Mesas, and Bears Ears National Monument. Original lyrics in Hopi language speak of clouds, rain, canyons, and ancestors, and were written while immersed within these landscapes. The music is both inspired by, in homage to, and a reflection of geographical locations with rich cultural significance. Traditional vocals are accompanied by some of the oldest instruments from the Southwest, including the Hopi long flute and clay pot drums.”


Music has the power to connect people to place in a profound way. With the Desert View Watchtower offering one of the world’s most renowned cultural and geographic landscapes, a trio of musicians with a strong connection to Grand Canyon recorded music inside the Watchtower on October 17, 2017. Through traditional Hopi vocals, the ancient sounds of the Hopi long flute and clay pot percussion, Öngtupqa (the Hopi name for Grand Canyon that translates to “Salt Canyon”) features the oldest instruments from this corner of the world through original compositions inspired by the canyon.

Clark Tenakhongva, Gary Stroutsos and Matthew Nelson use their mastery of voice, flute and percussion to bring the acoustics within the building to life and use the Watchtower itself as an acoustic vessel.

This music was created on-site with reverence for the space that could never be replicated in a music studio far from the views and spirit of Grand Canyon. The album Öngtupqa is the first recording of its kind for this special location – an acoustic soundscape intended to celebrate and honor the surrounding landscape. All songs on the album were recorded in one take within the Desert View Watchtower, within view of the canyon, without any rehearsal. The result is incredible.

The 53-minute audio recording is complemented by a 48-minute video, featuring stunning images of Grand Canyon, an explanation of Hopi cultural connections to the canyon, live music footage, and much more. 10% of the sale of each CD/DVD benefits restoration efforts of the Desert View Watchtower, and the continuation of traditional music and culture for youth on the Hopi Mesas.

Work Samples

Rain of Life (2017). Composed by Clark Tenakhongva. Performed by Clark Tenakhongva, vocals and rattle; Gary Stroutsos, Hopi long flute; and Matthew Nelson, clay pot drums.

Rain of Life was written while deep within Grand Canyon, inspired by the natural elements that have created the canyon over millennia. The music was recorded inside Desert View Watchtower within Grand Canyon National Park to keep the music within its natural context.

Butterfly Clouds (2017). Composed by Clark Tenakhongva. Performed by Clark Tenakhongva, vocals and rattle; Gary Stroutsos, Hopi long flute; and Matthew Nelson, clay pot drums.

“Butterfly Clouds was written while deep within Grand Canyon while watching clouds form over the canyon walls and momentarily transform into the shape of a butterfly (poli), a powerful symbol in Hopi culture.

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