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The best of all worlds converge in Mamer, an ethnic-minority Chinese singer-songwriter whose 2009 debut on Real World began making waves almost as soon as it was released. Born and raised in China's remote Xinjiang province, Mamer grew up in the grasslands, playing the two-stringed dombra and learning the songs and poems of his Kazakh-speaking people. As a teenager he moved to the provincial capital, Urumqi, where his musical universe expanded as he was introduced to bands like Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Television. He began music school and promptly quit, teaching himself to play guitar using open tunings that mimic the sound of the dombra. In 2002 he moved to Beijing, where he founded the group IZ and basically created Beijing's alt-country scene single-handedly. Despite courting from major Chinese labels (all of whom wanted him to start singing in Chinese), Mamer has remained resolutely indie, gaining an increasing following without compromising his sound. In 2009 he released Eagle on Real World and quickly earned accolades for his intriguing mix of grasslands folk, indie rock and bluegrass, which the press has dubbed "Chinagrass."

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