Professor B's Blog

MUSC 299 – Trevor Hall, “Obsidian”


I was wondering through Spotify today and encountered Trevor Hall‘s music. I was reading student papers and not paying a lot of attention to the lyrics, but when the track “Obsidian” played, I dropped everything and turned up the volume when I heard distinct Native American vocables in the background. My cultural-appropriation antenna went up and I thought, “Uh oh,” someone is trying sound “Indian.” I hunted down more information about Hall. He is deeply involved with Eastern spirituality and often includes Sanskrit chants in his works. The song “Obsidian,” though, was inspired by his friend Nahko. Here is Hall telling his story:

Nahko himself is an interesting musician. He identifies as Apache, Puerto Rican, and Filippino. The members of his group of musicians, Medicine for the People, all have varying backgrounds as well. They use music as a platform to explore spirituality, personal responsibility, supporting the environment, and social causes important to Native Americans, Hawaiians, and other displaced and underrepresented people. (For those who know me, you can imagine how exciting it is to find a group that embodies my research interests!)

It would be interesting to know how Trevor Hall came to use the vocables in his recording. Did he work with Nahko to learn about Native musical practices? Did he use Native American singers? What else would you ask him if you could interview him?



  1. Hi! I realize this post is kind of old but I was looking for this video to show a friend when I came across this. That is actually Nahko doing the chants in the background!

  2. When I heard that, I thought, surely he could use something less iconically “Injen”. I Surely there’s another chant that doesn’t sound like the Tomahawk Chop song at football games. As someone of Chinese heritage, I cringe everytime I hear that pentatonic scale used uncreatively to throw a little Asian flavor into “ethnic” music. Sounds Orientalist to me, and I wonder if First Nations people think the same of that particular chant that Hall used in “Obsidian”.

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