Synopsis by Mark Deming
The tiny nation of Tuva, located between Siberia and Mongolia, is home to an unusual musical tradition known as throat singing, in which vocalists produce resonant tones from deep in their throats. The masters of this form are able to sing three or four notes at a time, in effect allowing them to harmonize with themselves. Paul Pena is an American blues singer and guitarist who has worked with the likes of Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King. One day, he heard a program of Tuvan throat singing on the radio and was immediately fascinated by this remarkable, otherworldly music. Pena began the arduous task of teaching himself to sing in the Tuvan manner, a feat all the more remarkable since he had no guide other than a handful of recordings. After several years, word of the American throat singer traveled back to Tuva, and Genghis Blues documents Pena's triumphant journey to Kyzyl, where he was invited to perform for a festival and symposium on traditional Tuvan harmonic singing. The isolation that Pena feels as a blind man is contrasted by the joyous warmth with which he is received by his Tuvan partners in music. Genghis Blues proved to be an audience favorite in screenings at the 1999 Sundance, Rotterdam and San Francisco Film Festivals.
blindness [physical], blues-music, contest, journey, singer