Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Genghis Blues


I sat down to write about this highly-acclaimed (and Oscar-nominated) documentary, and remembered that it was Spider Robinson who originally recommended it to me, back in 2005. I finally got around to watching it. I’m going to let his words speak for the movie. Don’t wait two years to see it.


Richard Feynman for some reason got a bug up his ass about Tuva. I believe he heard a recording of Tuvan throat singing—totally awesome, unlike anything you’ve ever heard—and looked on a globe for the place and found it was almost literally the most remote point possible—then smack dab in the middle of the deepest darkest USSR. More or less just because everyone told him it was impossible, he set his heart on going there. He and friends and students moved heaven and earth, lobbied governments, did everything imaginable to get him there, as his dying wish…and failed. PBS did a documentary about it called Tuva or Bust, and Ralph Leighton wrote a book of the same name.

A couple of years after Feynman died, the USSR folded and anybody with the price of a ticket could go there.

A blind black American blues singer, Paul “Earthquake” Pena, subsequently did … and entered, and to the astonishment of the entire world, WON the annual Tuvan throat-singing competition. Another documentary resulted, this one award-winning, called Genghis Blues, available on DVD. Highly recommended.