The songs of immigrants have always told the story of our nation, and its times. The first book printed in what is now the United States was a book of songs — their tunes brought to our shores by English settlers. Centuries later, it was the descendants of African slaves who created jazz, and the children of Jewish immigrants who composed the Great American Songbook.

In this season of the GroundTruth podcast, called “The New American Songbook,” we ask how immigration continues to define our musical culture, and crucially: how music can help us understand the lives of today’s immigrants. Essential funding for this project was provided by Mass Humanities and WGBH News. Additional funding was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. You can hear the podcast in the chapters of this project, or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, RadioPublic, SoundCloud and other podcasting apps.


The New American Songbook

Episode 1

Act one: a Cambodian American man, and how music saved him from a genocide. Act two: a Cambodian American boy with a musical dream.

The New American Songbook

Episode 2

Two young Somali-American women in Boston are drawn together by poetry, and use it to connect with their grandmothers or ‘ayeeyo’ in Somalia.

The New American Songbook

Episode 3

For rapper Masterbrain, it's not enough to make it big in Boston, where he lives. His dream is to make it big in Haiti, where he was born.

The New American Songbook

Episode 4

A percussionist from Cyprus navigates a series of obstacles to follow in the footsteps of the American jazz masters.

The New American Songbook

Episode 5

To make mariachi that felt honest to his experience, Omar Naré had to break the rules. But if you break the rules of mariachi, is it still “mariachi”?

The New American Songbook


Boston has a long history of accepting waves of immigrants from all over the world, creating a diverse population that is ever-changing.

The New American Songbook


We held five events in Massachusetts to celebrate this series of audio documentaries, including a culminating event at Club Passim in Cambridge.

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