Genghis Blues

Genghis Blues

by Kongar-ol Ondar
     
 
The central Asian steppes and the Mississippi Delta prove to be much closer than you would think on the extraordinary soundtrack to the documentary Genghis Blues. The film tells the incredible true story of Paul Pena, the blind blues singer and guitarist who authored Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner" and who, discovering the mysterious

Overview

The central Asian steppes and the Mississippi Delta prove to be much closer than you would think on the extraordinary soundtrack to the documentary Genghis Blues. The film tells the incredible true story of Paul Pena, the blind blues singer and guitarist who authored Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner" and who, discovering the mysterious, traditional overtone music of Tuvan throat singers on shortwave radio, embarks on a journey to its source. Hoping to learn the technique for producing two or more distinct notes simultaneously, Pena ultimately befriends a professional Tuvan troupe and is invited to participate in the national singing competition in the capital city, Kyzyl. It gets even better: Pena wins first prize in the undertone category and the "Audience Favorite" award, garnering the nickname "Earthquake" from his hosts.

The soundtrack to the tale is the result of a unique collaboration with his Tuvan friend and mentor Kongar-ol Ondar, blending Ondar's arresting chants with Pena's heartening brand of folk blues. "What You Talkin' About?" is deep, bad, gutbucket business, seamlessly threading a Bo Diddley slide guitar stomp together with the deep boom of undertone drones and trans-hemispheric call and response. "Alash Hem," which refers to Tuva's Alash River, spotlights Ondar's stark, piercing overtone chanting unaccompanied, only to segue into the all-together-now gospel soul of "You Gotta Move." Pena even salutes his Cape Verdean roots with the haunting, folksy fado of "Tras d'Orizão." Ali Farka and Ry Cooder may have taught the world about the African roots of the blues with Talking Timbuktu, but Genghis Blues transcends geography to reveal the cosmic power of these deep, dark rumblings. Earthquake indeed!

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Chris Nickson
The soundtrack to one of the most unlikely tales (and a film nominated for a 1999 Academy Award), Genghis Blues is the story of blind American bluesman Paul Pena (who wrote Steve Miller's "Jet Airliner") who heard Tuvan throat singing and finally taught himself to do it, meeting one of the greats, Kongar-ol Ondar, at a concert the throat singer performed in Pena's home of San Francisco. The fairy tale comes with Pena traveling to Tuva, the center of Asia, to compete in a throat singing contest, carrying away two prizes in the end. The music, a mix of Pena's blues, like the autobiographical "What You Talkin' About?" -- possibly the first piece to mix blues and throat singing -- or the rollicking "Gonna Move," highlight that side of his talent, while "Beyond the Horizon" harks back to his family's Cape Verdean roots. But the meat is the throat singing, whether from Ondar, the two together, or Pena himself, whose "Kargyraa Moan," really connects the dots between gutbucket blues and Asia, or "Sunezin Yry." One of the album's most moving pieces, however, is neither blues nor throat singing, but Pena taped in a hotel room singing "Center of Asia," a gorgeous song that deserves to be widely heard. "Tuva Farewell" brings it all together, Pena's excellent song, Ondar's singing, with the two on a duet, complementing each other. It's a great story, and perfectly documented on this album, with its unearthly vocals (especially on the live "Eki A'ttar") and rooted -- in both American and Asian -- mood.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/07/2000
Label:
Six Degrees
UPC:
0657036103825
catalogNumber:
1038
Rank:
134261

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