Whole Story

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Putumayo = Whole World Music

Around here, we feel like Putumayo World Music and Whole Foods Market kind of grew up together. In celebration of our 30th birthday this year, we asked Dan Storper, founder and president of Putumayo, to write about how it all came to be. Post a comment by February 7th with your favorite kind of world music or Putumayo CD and you might just win a copy of their upcoming release, Rhythm & Blues. putamayoPutumayo World Music was created as a result of a happy series of coincidences. I must say that serendipity (destiny?) has played a major role in much of my professional life. Back in 1991, on my return from Bali, where I was designing and buying clothing and handicrafts for my wholesale and retail business based in New York, I stopped off in San Francisco for a day. On the way to visit a museum exhibit in Golden Gate Park, I heard an incredible African band called Kotoja performing in front of a few hundred people of all ages and backgrounds who were dancing to their wonderful Nigerian-based Afro-beat music. I was struck by how the music had brought these different types of people together on a beautiful San Francisco day in the park. Back in New York a few days later, I walked into my Putumayo clothing and handicraft store and heard some intense heavy metal music coming from the speakers. I knew that it was time to address music in my stores. I put together a special mixed tape combining some of my favorites like Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and others with African, Brazilian and other world music I had started collecting. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Everyone started asking about the music. danA few weeks later, I found myself at a conference of the Social Venture Network, which had members at the time including Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, Ben & Jerry, John Mackey, Whole Foods' CEO, and the founder of Rhino Records, Richard Foos. I started talking with Richard about releasing a CD of world music I was playing in my stores and he agreed to partner with us on the first CD, which came out in 1993. I discussed the idea with retailers, including John Mackey, at the Social Venture Network. At first there was some skepticism. But once we had our first CDs, we started approaching individual Whole Foods stores to try out our music. From the beginning it worked out well and the staff seemed to like the idea of being able to present great world music for adults and, later, kids as a way of introducing people to the world through music. Eventually, I met Walter Robb, Whole Foods' Co-President, who became a fan and introduced us to many of the regional managers and helped us in the process of having Putumayo sold at most of the Whole Foods stores. Today, Whole Foods is our biggest account. More than 20 of our CDs include recipes and we've noticed the connection between food and music, and we even have a food-based CD for children called Picnic Playground. People play our music at home parties and have themed dinners in which French, Italian, Latin or other music is played and the recipes by well-respected chefs in our CDs are used. We're also pleased that through the sales of CDs at Whole Foods and other retailers, we've raised more than $1 million to contribute to non-profits doing good work in the regions where the music comes from. (Note: In response to the unprecedented tragedy in Haiti, Putumayo is giving all receipts from their French Caribbean CD to The Red Cross. Five of the songs on this collection are from Haiti.) putamayo1Now that I live in New Orleans, I've been happy to introduce great American music to the world. Our upcoming Rhythm & Blues release features many of my favorite soul artists from New Orleans and beyond. It's a throwback to my youth when I loved the Four Tops, Manhattans, Otis Redding and many others. It's coming out soon, but if you'd like to win an advance copy, just post a comment below and let me know what's your favorite world music or Putumayo CD. Two comments will be selected at random to receive a free copy of our Rhythm & Blues CD. Post your comment by February 7th to be eligible. Enjoy the music!

02/10 - Congrats to our randomly selected winners of the Putumayo Rhythm & Blues CDs!

Samir As far as Putumayo’s back catalogue is concerned, “Women of The World: Acoustic” and “Music from Chocolate Lands” are two of my favourites. Listening to these will guarantee you lower blood pressure and make great listening whether you are stuck in traffic or just chillin’ in your home. Putumayo’s label is full of some of the most fascinating and original music produced on this planet.

Claire Calhoun My first CD was New Orleans Christmas…I love it…gave several as gifts. There are so many that I love and enjoy…World Groove is one. Just heard some of the blues CD’s and hope to add them to my collection soon. Fabulous music….makes me happy and wanting to dance!

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307 comments

Comments

Gudrun Loglisci says …

I like latin blues but also typical accordeon rhytms from Paris/France.

Everett says …

Thanks to magical voice Cesaria Evora, I keep coming back to Cape Verde. But I'm also a big, big fan of music from Mali and the surrounding regions. Or did id I say Celtic? Irish, Scottish, Breton, Cape Breton ... . Or was that Cajun? Zydeco, Creole, blues, soul, jazz, reggae. (Hmmm, I'm starting to suspect I'm unsure if I have a favorite music.)

Melissa says …

I absolutely LOVE the Putumayo CD'S! I used to buy them in the coolest antique shop in Asheville, North Carolina. I have several of them, but have always considered "World Lounge" to be my personal favorite. It is like my own "Theme CD." It is the music that I turn to whether I am feeling bad or feeling good!

Laura Brown says …

Although I am partial in my listening, I have special places in my heart for ethnic music and jazz. I think if more people listened to a wider variety of music, they would have a broader understanding of each other and the world. Music is definitely a language that transcends every other barrier and is a gift. Rhythm & Blues, along with jazz, is an American invention in the music world that too often is overlooked. Kudos for releasing this CD!

Christine says …

I loved reading about the inception of Putumayo. You have lived my dream life. Anytime I see the words living in New Orleans my eyes perk up. I own several of the CD's. I cannot say what is my favorite series but I do tend to lean toward the blues. I love world music so just about everything I have heard pleases my senses. I travel to Lafayette every year for the Internationale Fest just for the music and bands that I get to hear in one place! I also love Whole Foods. I have purchased many items there from World of Good and totally support all efforts to help those who struggle in this world! Thank you

Mandy Stinchcomb says …

My family loves African Playground. When the kids need some fun, indoor active time, I put it on and we dance our hearts out!

Maria says …

My favorite is the American Blues which CD which was given to me as a gift. Would love to hear the new CD!

Judy says …

I can't think of any better music. I have a number of Putumayo cds. My favorites are the New Orleans and Zydeco compilations. They are always playing on my ipod or my home stereo. Fantastic music!!

Arnette Storey says …

It's always a great idea to support local artists and I can't wait to hear this.

Terry Bleakley says …

Putumayo music helped me appreciate the tremendous diversity of world music.

Tom Webb says …

SEreNDIpiTY has the word "destiny" in it; i know, just some dumb bit of useless trivia!!!

Heidi Niemczyk says …

...it doesn't get much better than Putumayo....great selection, beautiful covers/graphics, and an education about world music. Looking forward to Rhythm & Blues!! Thank you Dan :)

Caroline says …

Music is the universial language for people of all ages. I love how music creates a memory during a meal. Rhythm & Blues is a great way to celebrate life. Cheers to international food and festive music.

Irma Vazquez says …

I love Putumayo! I've been collecting for almost 10 years....My Fave so far: Salsa around the World.

Mark Vigrass says …

Great interview! Thanks for providing a wide variety of world music for everyone to enjoy. My favourite Putamayo CD is one I got this past Christmas - A Jazz & Blues Christmas. :-)

Alina says …

my best of the best is Asian Groove. Can't get enough of it

Connie Hostak says …

I first discovered Putumayo CDs while traveling in Puerto Rico. I wanted some local music as a souvenir and chose the brightly colored Putumayo CD that caught my eye. I loved it from the first listen and have since run across Putumayo CDs in the Caribbean, Spain, and even Alaksa! My collection has expanded faster than my travels, however, and my current favorite is Music from the Coffee Lands.

Chef Edmund Gelfman says …

Hi! My two favorite Putumayo CDs are: Animal Playground and African Dreamland. The selections on Animal Playground are upbeat, diverse and fun. A great compliment to family time or a child's activity or play date occasion. And also, my children ages 14, 11, 8 and 6 truly enjoy listening, singing, dancing and drawing/coloring while this CD play over, and over...again African Dreamland is superb for when you'd like to create peaceful, soothing and restful times. Beautiful music for all ages. Highly Recommend, Putumayo.

Karen Monken says …

I absolutely love Acoustic Arabia ... it is so soothing and different from anything I can find on the radio.

Mary says …

everything that comes out is enjoyed by my family! putumayo rocks!

Tom Measday says …

Been enjoying the music for at least two decades, I hope that I will never stop discovering new sounds. Thanks

ricardo says …

I own about 25+ Putumayo CDs, as a matter of fact, my entire iPod lists are Putumayo music. My favorite are the groove and lounge collections.

Karen says …

Where can you listen to a sampling of this CD????

Tom Albrecht says …

This is fantastic! :D

Davey says …

New Orleans is a great place to experience a various music styles. Welcome to the city! It sounds that the music on your CD's will nourish the soul and calm the spirit.

Monika Star says …

I love the Whole World Music experience I put on the headphones and get lost in the sounds of Wordly Music-Real authentic Music!

Elizabeth says …

I have a number of Putumayo cds. My favorites are the New Orleans and Zydeco compilations. They are always playing on my ipod. I also listen to the internet music stream.

Lana C. says …

I love Hawaiian music - it's American but it's completely different from anything else you might term "American". It's serene, simple, beautiful, diverse and rich, and listening to it takes me back to a relaxing sunny afternoon on the beach in Waikiki, listening to the ukelele players in the plaza. Even if I'm stuck in traffic :)

Monica says …

I think From Congo to Cuba is a near-perfect CD. I ordered CDs from every artist featured on it, and love every one. My first love of Putumayo CDs was Afro-Latino and yes, I am one of the people who walked into the Putumayo store in Soho and was electrified by the music and have been buying Putumayo CDs ever since. Cripes, I even WENT to Putumayo in Colombia! My ambition is to acquire every Putumayo CD out there and I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to them. I am crazy about Putumayo CDs with titles like: Latin Jazz, Colombia, French Caribbean, World Lounge, the Dalom Kids & Splash, Johnny Clegg, Mo' Vida, Latin Groove, Radio Latino, World Groove, Baila!, Nuevo Latino, Celtic Crossroads, North African Groove and gosh there are so many more, awesome all of them! Right now, I'm playing the lovely Afro-Portuguese Odyssey.

anonymous says …

During the first days after the Haiti Earthquake, I played French Caribbean nonstop and wrote my newspaper editorials (this is my job) about Haiti while listening to this sound under the headphones.

Debra Banks says …

One of my favourite CD's from Putumayo is 'One World' have been a fan of this label from its' inception...Love this collective CD of rhythm and tunes from all about our global community..always listen to it...One Love..

Claire Calhoun says …

My first CD was New Orleans Christmas...I love it...gave several as gifts. There are so many that I love and enjoy...World Groove is one. Just heard some of the blues CD's and hope to add them to my collection soon. Fabulous music....makes me happy and wanting to dance!

Stephanie says …

I LOVE Putumayo!! I like to use the Playground cd's in preschool classrooms throughout the day and the Dreamland cd's during naptime. It is a great way to introduce cultural music. Right now my favorite cd is Acoustic Africa. I am in the process of obtaining my Master's degree and I enjoy listening to Acoustic Africa while I am writing essays. It puts me in a wonderful mood and makes my essay writing more enjoyable! :)

Daniel says …

My favorite is probably the India CD. The way their langauge and singing style is capable of conveying such raw passion is absolutely beautiful.

Samir says …

As far as Putumayo's back catalogue is concerned, "Women of The World: Acoustic" and "Music from Chocolate Lands" are two of my favourites. Listening to these will guarantee you lower blood pressure and make great listening whether you are stuck in traffic or just chillin' in your home. Putumayo's label is full of some of the most fascinating and original music produced on this planet.

Kate Walsh says …

We just returned from a long road trip, and the Putumayo cds were the ones most requested by my children :) It made the driving very pleasant indeed! The most requested were: Women of Spirit, and Music from the Chocolate Lands.

Annie Woods says …

I have over 120 putumayo CD's and my favorite is a tie between South Pacific Islands and India. Can't wait to hear more!

Debbie L Rogers says …

When I requested music from my family, other than my usual request of jazz, I was given Music from the Coffee Lands II. It is still my favorite. I love the vocals in other languages. I don't have the time to do a music search in languages & Putumayo has done it for me. Yea!

Byronem says …

I absolutely love the Putumayo CDs. We have several and the lullabies are great for the little ones. thanks you...hope to get an advanced copy -B

Jennifer says …

Vivre Putumayo! You have opened my ears to Africa!

nate says …

One World is my favorite

Suzanne says …

I can't believe it's been this long. Putumayo really started me on my love affair with world music. It's good to know that they are a social force as well. Keep the music coming!

Marion says …

I have about 30 Putumayo Cds and it´s impossible to choose a favourite one....maybe Arabic Groove, Music From The Chocolate Lands and Women Of The World International.

Cj says …

Wow, I've been a fan of Putumayo World Music for years...it is nice to know the Whole Story. My favorite is the Best of World Music. I drift away to the islands and am immersed in the culture while listening to the CD. But, most importantly knowing that proceeds from the CD are used to improve lives and empower others to overcome life struggles gives me a sense of being part of something larger than myself and that as a collective we are making a positive impact on the world. I look forward to hearing the newest CD. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Polly Thornton says …

I have most of the Putumayo CD's. Variety in music is important to me and being exposed to WORLD music is even more important. Two of my favorite Putumayo CD's are: Brazilian Jazz and the Cuban-flavored CD. I am a massage therapist and so am constantly working at providing new relaxing music for my clients and for myself (how would you like to have to listen to the same tracks over and over and over and over... well you get the idea). I download the CD's to my PC and create playlists using Cuban conga, the softer songs, Bossa Nova and other great stuff. Then I download to my MP3 player and I'm portable! My clients often ask me what the music is and are surprised and happy to learn you can get it from Whole Foods! Thanks for helping my career and my sanity!

John says …

I've never heard a Putumayo CD I didn't like. Good music is good music, no matter where in the world it comes from.

Linda Maynard says …

There is so much variety out there- it is hard to pick. I really like some Cuban jam, or flowing rhthyms of Fijian songs, or Mongolian throat singing just to name a few. One favorite documentary is "Ghengis Blues"- about a blues player the goes to Mongolia and incorporates his blues with throat singing- quite unique and a great sound! So any mix or type of music is ok with me. Bring it on!

Linda Maynard says …

see comments posted.

Claire Lindberg says …

The Putamayo world music series is great! I have several which I play all the time: in my car, in my home, in my yoga classes. THe songs transport me to other cultures and exotic places. Even if I can't go to these places, I can get the flavor by listening to the CDs. It is difficult to favorite! Maybe "Women of the World" - or possibly "American Blues" - or, or, or........ Claire

Angie says …

French Caribbean is a favorite, but CAN'T WAIT for the Rhythm & Blues CD! Having grown up near New Orleans, blues music brings back a lot of special memories. Thanks for doing a great job!

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