During the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s, nearly all of the country’s musicians were killed. But in a strange twist of fate, music saved the life of a Cambodian boy named Sovann. Now a U.S. citizen in Lowell, Massachusetts, he’s trying to make sure Cambodia’s music traditions live on. Across town, a 9-year-old boy seems uniquely gifted to do just that.

You can hear the whole story in Episode 1 of the new season of the GroundTruth podcast. This season is called “The New American Songbook” — five audio documentaries that explore the lives of today’s immigrants through music. New episodes will roll out every other week, including the stories of a Haitian-American rapper in Boston trying to make it big back home, and two young Somali women bonding over poetry on a train to Mansfield.

The songs of immigrants have always told the story of America, and its times. The first book printed in what is now the United States was a book of songs — the tunes brought to these 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. “The New American Songbook” explores how immigration continues to define the United States’ musical culture, and how music can help us understand the immigrant experience.