Genghis Blues
The Filmmakers Behind Paul Pena's Journey Speak
 More of this Feature
• Part 3: More with Adrian and Roko
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• African Music
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• Genghis Blues: Official Site
• Paul Pena

Paula: What interested you in the story of Paul Pena?

Roko: Well, the way we got into Paul's story was first by knowing about Tuva. I'd seen a documentary when I was in high school about an eccentric American physicist, Richard Feynman, and his friend, Ralph Leighton, trying to get to "Tannu Tuva", a place I'd never heard of before. It was a strange program because although Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, it was really about his desire to go to this remote place in Asia. So that's how I learned about Tuva and I immediately decided that I was going there as soon as I could. But I was 16 or 17 years old so it took another 6 years, after I got out of college (at the University of California in Santa Barbara) before I found Ralph Leighton's phone number, and took the next significant step of the journey.* That step was learning about Paul. Ralph answered my questions about Tuvan shamanism and nomadic culture and their incredible singing tradition...but then he told me about Paul Pena, and that's where the magic started. Ralph told me how this bluesman had played with the greats and had become great himself, but somehow he remained just under the radar of the mainstream public. But Paul's most amazing achievement was teaching himself to throatsing. Ralph impersonated Paul over the phone, his best rendition of a "gut-bucket scratchy blues voice" and I was hooked. How could I NOT be interested when Ralph told me of Paul's plans to visit Tuva?!

Adrian: The interest in the story of Paul Pena was that it was so unbelievable, yet it was true. Paul Pena is such an incredible human being. We knew that anywhere Paul went amazing things would happen. He was just that kind of special person. And it just so happens that he was going to extraordinary place. Also, his perseverance to overcome odds that most people would never even imagine, were elements of the story few ever get the opportunity to tell. Plus, he is a great guy to hang out with. Finally, it was a great way to go to a place we had dreamed about since we were children.

Paula: Have you always been interested in the music of the World?

Roko: I'm not sure...but I can say that blues, country, ABBA, Elvis and Christmas carols were all part of my musical upbringing (thanks to Mom's taste). When I went to East Africa when I was 18 I got into soukous (Central African pop) music and when I first heard Peter Gabriel's Passion album I knew there was something great to be explored in World Music.

Adrian: Yes, I've always been interested in music from around the world as well as from my own backyard (Blues, Jazz, Hip-Hop, etc.). My mom had a huge role in my upbringing, surrounding me with influences from around the world. Also, I am a first generation American. When I was growing up, my family would go to East and West Europe for the summers to visit our relatives. We rarely stayed in hotels, but rather stayed with family and friends. In their houses I continued my exploration of music from around the World.

*Feynman had died of cancer before the documentary aired and Leighton had since founded Friends of Tuva to disseminate info on the little known Republic.

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