Delta blues and Tuvan throat-singing: Paul Pena and Genghis Blues

In the Christmas episode of sf writer Spider Robinson's delightfully eclectic podcast (I'm running a little behind in my podcasts right now), Spider introduced the work of American bluesman Paul Pena, playing a couple of his tracks. I was blown away.

Pena, a blind musician, was captivated by the sounds of Tuvan throat-singing, which he encountered for the first time on a late-night shortwave transmission. He taught himself to throat-sing, and met with and befriended Kongar-ol Ondar, forming the band Genghis Blues, which merged throat-singing with Delta blues in a marvellous and haunting way.

Pena died tragically after a misdiagnosis of pancreatic cancer led to his being addicted to — and then brutally denied — heavy painkillers, and subsequently died from pancreatitis and complications from diabetes. (Set sez, "He was never brutally denied painkillers — after he found out that the first Dr. made a mistake in diagnosis, he finally found a competent and good Dr. who helped him manage his pain, quite compassionately, up until the end. ")

His music is a rich legacy, though. The combination of Tuvan throat-singing and the blues is not to be believed — or missed.

MP3 link to Spider's podcast (Pena segment starts about 5:20),

Genghis Blues DVD,

Genghis Blues CD

Information on Genghis Blues,

Paul Pena homepage,

Paul Pena on Wikipedia,

Spider Robinson podcast