Chinagrass is the name given by some to classify contemporary Chinese folk music, often influenced or performed by Chinese minorities. In a hour long podcast documentary, Zoe Baxter explores this little known genre, interviewing producers and musicians from two of the genre’s leading groups: Mamer and Hanggai.
The singer / songwriter Mamer is part of the Kazakh minority in Xinjiang, the far western province of China, which is surrounded and influenced by Tibet, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Russia. This month, Mamer released his debut album, Eagle, on Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. Hanggai is a Beijing-based Mongolian folk band composed of 5 members who feature the distinctive Morin Khuur and throat-singing.
Mamer describes where he gets the inspiration for his music:
The great old Kazak folk songs were born when people were shepherding. Living in cities we are often too busy to allow this sort of tranquility to enter our lives. I have to return to the grasslands once or twice a year. That is where I get my inspiration, my creativity. I always stay awhile with the old people in the mountains, learning their songs and traditions. Without this a whole way of life will be lost to the young generation. I want to breathe new life into the poems and songs I grew up with.