One of the most surprising and refreshing albums you'll hear this year is featured this week on All Songs Considered. It's by an artist who goes by the name Mamer. He's from the grasslands of northwestern China — a remote area where, he says, many people live as nomads.
Historically, the most popular and traditional instrument of the region is a dombra, which is a little like a lute. It figures heavily in the music of Mamer, though he's updated the sound to give it a more modern flavor. In the video above, Mamer is very soft-spoken and modest as he talks about his work.
"It is a new kind of grassland music," he says. "That's what I want to make: grassland music for today. Not music of the past."
You don't have to be a big "world music" fan to enjoy Mamer. In China, he and his band are considered an alt-country group, and are often credited with kick-starting a popular movement there to blend traditional Chinese folk music with more contemporary sounds.
Give a listen and let us know what you think.