RSS Social Icon Facebook Social Icon Dig Youtube Social Icon

Making the Documentary and Music Soundtrack


NEW: Lisa Gerrard and Cye Wood have just released an album inspired by the film series. READ MORE

Filming my journey was something that I wanted to do from the beginning, but without a camera crew, and on a very small budget it was never going to be easy.

Filming didn’t start well. I discovered a hair inside the lens during the first week of travel in Mongolia meaning I could not film wide angles without a big black blotch. Then my tripod broke. I almost gave up.

In Western Mongolia a horse happened to roll over with the saddlebags still attached, which crushed the camera that was inside them. Amazingly it survived...and the movement got rid of the hair! Unfortunately though the UV filter had also smashed and scratched the lens. I had another blotch on the lens to deal with.

In Kazakhstan my video camera was stolen by a horse thief who took my backpack and leapt onto one of my horses in the night. Fortunately everything was recovered. But then as the temperature plummeted to minus forty the LCD screen froze and the camera near failed to work. In the desert, the battery charger died, but at a remote rail siding a rail labourer broke into the charger with a knife and soldered up the circuit…..I was saved again.

In Western Kazakhstan the camera gave up the ghost all together, and I was onto my third tripod…..I had to order in parts from Japan to Almaty, and missed two months of filming. In the end, friend Chris Hatherly kindly sent me his video camera from Australia, which I used until Hungary.

Even when the camera was in working order, filming was a real challenge alone. It usually involved setting up the tripod, riding back, and away and then checking the results. Tigon became so accustomed that he used to sit under the tripod and wait no matter how far I rode into the distance.

I also did most of the still photography myself by using a twenty-second timer on my SLR. This meant setting up the shot, getting the horses to stand in the right place, then sprinting back to jump in the saddle. Since I shot almost everything on transparency film I wasn’t able to process or see any of my photographs until after the trip was completed.

In the Ukraine a grant from ABC enabled us to employ cinematographer Mike Dillon to join me in the Carpathians for three weeks. During this filming, Mike walked along side, and two video cameras broke in the inclement weather.

Mike then also joined me for the finale in Hungary…which was a blessing because by that stage my tripod was broken again and even Chris’s video camera had broken down.

When I returned home to Australia with 137 hours of dusty old tapes, it was like being back in Mongolia again, the beginning of another journey.

Music Soundtrack

I was fortunate during my journey to meet many inspirational musicians, some of whom agreed to contribute to the soundtrack of our film.

Okna Tsahan Zam. Album ‘Shaman Voices: A Journey Through the Steppe’

Okna Tsahan Zam, whose music provides the nomad music themes in the series, is a Kalmyk who lives in the republic of Kalmykia in Southern Russia. The Kalmyks are ethnic Mongols who migrated from Mongolia to Russia four hundred years ago. 

Okna began his career as an engineer at a power station in Moscow but after a series of dreams, he gave it up and devoted his life to Throat Singing (Khoomei), the Mongolian vocal technique of his ancestors. This vocal technique is very spectacular : it allows the singer to sing two or more voices at the same time.

Okna’s music, a fusion of throat singing, traditional nomad song and modern pop has been highly acclaimed at concerts and festivals across Europe and the US. He came to prominence at the Cannes MIDEM festival in 2003 and his music has also topped the charts in Mongolia.

Tim met Okna, and interviewed him while traveling through Kalmykia and they remain friends.

More information:

View the full collection of traditional music of the steppes that Tim filmed at

Lisa Gerrard & Cye Wood

Lisa Gerrard is Australian musician, singer and composer who rose to prominence as part of the music group Dead Can Dance.  Since her career began in 1981, she has been involved in a wide range of projects and received a Golden Globe Award for the music score to the film Gladiator, on which she collaborated with Hans-Zimmer and Klaus Badelt.

Lisa was moved by Tim’s journey and offered to contribute to the score, collaborating with the talented composer Cye Wood for the haunting, minimalist pieces found throughout Tim’s series.


Lisa Gerrard and Cye Wood have just released an album inspired by the film series. READ MORE