We're excited to share a new collaboration today. We're calling it "FutureFolk." The series is in partnership with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

To help kick things off, we turn to Rahim AlHaj, an Iraqi-American composer and oud player. He has a new album out called "Letters from Iraq."

AlHaj lives in New Mexico now, but the songs on the album are inspired by actual letters sent by people in Iraq.

He told us the moving story behind one composition, "Running Boy." (Listen to the audio above.)

All the songs on "Letters from Iraq" — performed by AlHaj with a string quintet and percussion — convey stories about life in war-torn Iraq. AlHaj received letters of loss and pain, but also letters of hope and resilience.

We look forward to having more musicians like Rahim AlHaj share their music and tell their stories. We're also excited to share in this new collaboration with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Watch the performance below to hear another song from AlHaj's album. 

From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI