Paul Pena

Album reviews:

2000: Genghis Blues – Music from the Motion Picture [with Kongar-ol Ondar]

Genghis Blues

Album: Genre Recommendation, 7.5/10 | Released: 2000 | Specific Genre: Blues, Tuvan Throat Singing | Main Genre: Blues | Undertones: Rhythm&Blues, Cape Verdean Music | Label: Six Degrees

When you feel like you’re all alone, that’s when you wanna moan that Kargyraa moan

Paul Pena has a diverse musical background: Cape Verdean idioms, soul, contemporary folk, bluegrass and most of all blues of a delta variant. With a couple of obscure 1970s albums under his belt, he picked up throat singing and became so good at it he was eventually invited to the Central Asian throat singing festival by its global ring leader (and globally marketable star) Kongar-ol Ondar. The adventure was documented by an Oscar-nominated documentary, this is its soundtrack.

Suprisingly, it works. Delta blues and Tuvan throat singing flow into each other with no problems, creating – lo and behold – non-kitsch fusion. It is nothing less than riveting to hear the sound of Ondar’s mangled voice singing a Tuvan folk melody backed by Pena’s slide guitar to make something that is, well, heart-wrenching, affective delta blues on „Sünezin Yry“ (evidently about a stabbed man lying in the snow and singing about it, so it fits). This is repeated on folkier numbers like „Kongurey“ or “Kaldak Hamar” and the almost country-ish, horse-ride folk blues of „Eki A’ttar“. Pena gets late career accolades, Ondar amplifies Tuvan culture, and blues fans get a folk blues fusion album that actually works – this couldn’t have gone any better.