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Genghis Blues (1999)

San Francisco bluesman and composer, Paul Peña makes a musical pilgrimage to the land of Tuva.


Roko Belic


Roko Belic
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins. See more awards »




Credited cast:
Richard Feynman ... Self (archive footage)
B.B. King ... Self
Kongar-ol Ondar Kongar-ol Ondar
Paul Pena Paul Pena
Aislinn Scofield Aislinn Scofield ... Self


The extraordinary odyssey of a U.S. musician of Cape Verdean ancestry to Tannu Tuva, in central Asia, where nomadic people throat sing more than one note simultaneously, using vocal harmonics. A bluesman, Paul Pena, blind and recently widowed, taught himself throat singing and was by chance invited to the 1995 throat-singing symposium in Kyzyl. Helped by the "Friends of Tuva," Pena makes the arduous journey. Singing in the deep, rumbling kargyraa style, Pena gives inspired performances at the festival, composes songs in Tuvan, washes his face in sacred rivers, expresses the disorientation of blindness in foreign surroundings, and makes a human connection with everyone he meets. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Did You Know?


Director Christopher Nolan receives one of his earliest credits on this documentary, when he is listed under 'Editorial Assistance'. When he spent 3 years in Chicago as a child, he was friends with Roko and Adrian Belic and the three of them made short Super 8 movies together. See more »

User Reviews

Must be heard to be appreciated
12 March 2001 | by Torch-6See all my reviews

You may have heard about "harmonic singing" or "Throat Singing," in which the performer can isolate two-to-several harmonics on their vocal cords, giving the impression that more than one voice is singing. Such a description is like saying Shakespeare wrote a couple of plays.

Harmonic singing is endemic to the nation of Tannu Tuva, once a member of the USSR, now just Tuva. Brought to some notoriety by famous physicist Richard Feynman and his student Ralph Leighton, Tuva is a beautiful place, reminiscent of Montana--if Montana had been settled by the Mongol Hordes.

But throat-singing is an enchanting, mystical, unreal sound--and one that takes some getting used to. "Genghis Blues" chronicles the journey of a blind bluesman to Tannu Tuva, after he stumbled across a Radio Moscow broadcast of Tuvan throat-singing, his journey to Tuva, and the people he meets there.

Nominated for best documentary oscar (insert trademark nonsense here) for 1999, this film is a must-see for those who enjoy vicarious travel to places you've never even heard of.

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Official Sites:

Wadi Rum Productions




English | Tuvinian

Release Date:

28 October 1999 (New Zealand) See more »

Also Known As:

Dzsingiz blues See more »

Filming Locations:

Kyzyl, Tuva Republic See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,524, 4 July 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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