Accepted paper:

Waila: the music of the Tohono O'odham


Stephen Nugent (Goldsmiths)

Paper short abstract:

A profile of Tohono O'dham (Papago) waila musician and bandleader, Gertrude Lopez. Mainly a film of musical performances, it also includes commentary from an ethnologist, a folklorist, a jewelry dealer and Native American activist. 44' film and 15’ filmmaker-led discussion

Paper long abstract:

Waila is the name of the music of the Tohono O'odham people of the Sonora Desert - Southern Arizona/Northern Mexico. Also widely known as 'chickenscratch', waila is played by small combos, typically featuring accordion, guitar, bass, drums, percussion as well as saxophone, bajo sexto and violin. Rarely sung, waila is primarily for dancing and is played at diverse social events on and off the reservation.

This film features Gertrude Lopez and her group, the Tohono O'odham Boyz. Gertie lives in Tucson where she works on the San Xavier portion of the Tohono O'odham reservation as a teacher and has had, for over a decade, a weekend residency at a South Tucson bar. A musician since childhood, she played in her father Augustine's mariachi band before setting off on her own with various of her brothers in waila bands. Although, as she notes, there are many female waila musicians on the reservation, none is as prominent as she, certainly none with a career as a veteran bandleader.

44' film and 15’ filmmaker-led discussion

panel P43
Film programme