FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

Paul "Cher Shimjer" Pena

Photo by Michael Macor San Francisco Chronicle
Reproduced with permission.  Click to enlarge.

October 2, 2005

It is with great sadness that Friends of Tuva notes the passing of longtime Friend of Tuva extraordinaire Paul Pena.  Paul died at home on October 1, 2005, after a long illness.

The earthquake shook us all, and we're all the better for it.
May the temblors of Paul's unique voice continue to move us.

Those who knew Paul personally or only through his work and his exploits already know what an astonishing life he led.  Instead of presenting his full biography here, we provide a few selected links below.

Paul rose to international attention as the central figure in the feature-length documentary "Genghis Blues", nominated for an Academy Award in 2000.  In a world where life is fair, Paul would have been able to parlay this turn in the limelight into greater success in a rekindled musical career.  On the contrary, despite a few steps forward (for example, the release of "New Train", and the release of the Genghis Blues CDs), Paul's life seemed to miss every potential lucky break and instead hit every pitfall imaginable.  It is truly unfair that he lived the archetypical life of the bluesman of fable and fiction and that his talent and his dedication to his craft were not enough to guarantee success.  All we can say is that life is obviously not fair.

To the end, Paul had some close friends that cared about him, and cared for him, and those of us who were not close to him can be thankful for that.

Seth Augustus and friends organized a memorial celebration for Paul in the San Francisco on October 23.


Memories of Paul

If you have memories of Paul that you'd like to see posted here, please email them to us and we'll be happy to include them.

Science fiction author Spider Robinson ( writes from British Columbia:

I happened to flip on the TV this evening, exactly 24 hours after Paul Pena was found dead at his home in San Francisco. The program THE WEST WING came on. In its opening precredit sequence, Jimmy Smits hits the campaign trail as Senator Matt Santos. The background music used for the entire sequence was Steve Miller's famous recording of Paul's song "Jet Airliner." I wept like a baby.

He was one of the greatest blues singers of our time, and also one of the best guitarists, on 12-string or electric. Likewise he was the greatest Tuvan throat-singer in the West (Seth Augustus is, now) AND the best blues didgeridu player in the universe. I told him that on the phone, a week and a half ago, and he laughed and laughed. He'd have laughed just as hard, I think, if he'd known he would hit national network TV again within 24 hours of his death.

The Earthquake may have stopped rumbling for the moment...but they never really do go away for good, do they? Ask a Tuvan shaman, not me.

How many bluesmen do you suppose have ever been mourned in Kyzyl?

Singer and author Pam Swan has some memories of Paul on her WWW site at .

For the San Francisco memorial gathering, Ralph Leighton composed and read a poem, Two Great Men.


Selected Paul Pena links: