Genghis Blues
directed by Roko Belic
(Documentary Film, 1999)

Genghis Blues is a documentary film about the amazing journey of blind blues musician Paul Pena.

While listening to a Russian radio broadcast on short wave, Pena heard a type of music that was both mysterious and compelling. By chance he tuned into a program that was featuring throat singing, the traditional musical form of the Russian Republic of Tuva. Also called polyphonic singing, throat singing is a technique where a person can sing two to four pitches at the same time. Yes, you can try this at home. This style of singing is found in Tibet, Mongolia and in several circum-polar cultures.

Pena started studying the music and language of Tuva. Because there are no English-Tuvan dictionaries, he had to learn Tuvan through an English-Russian and then a Russian-Tuvan dictionary. In Tuva, Pena met and traveled with Kongarol Ondar, one of the country's most famous singers.

This film explores both the inner and outer journey. There is beautiful footage of breathtaking scenery coupled with the warmth of the Tuvan people as they embrace and welcome Pena. He performed at the Tuvan National Theater and won first prize for one of the singing styles along with the Audience Favorite Award. The documentary is also a wonderful introduction to this amazing art form that seems to stretch the boundaries of what is possible with the human voice.

review by
Thomas Ardizzone

13 December 2008

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