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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

Goddess in the Groove says …

I can't wait to hear it! Not only is New Orleans my favorite city in the world, I love Rhythm & Blues! My daughter is now learning to play the blues on the guitar :)... a wonderful opportunity to dig out my favorite blues CD's and enjoy them all over again. I am impressed with your CD's so far, I am sure this one will not leave me dissapointed! Thank you!

Chris says …

These CD's have provided great exposure to world music and have been an invitation for me to exlpore varied cultures more deeply. They have even been the impetus for travel, dance,volunteerism and culinary experimentation! What a wonderful resource, education, and entertainment!

Adam says …

The CDs from Putumayo are a great way to sample world music. My favorites, though, tend to be Celtic music. Just right for those moments when some reflection is needed.

Michael Coates says …

I can highly recommend Putumayo. Latin Reggae and World Reggae are two I have that have expanded my musical world. And they're just two among several others. Enjoy the music indeed.

linda says …

PUTUMAYO is the best.....i love the caribbean and french music, the african music, the children's music......... it was an incredible idea to put the music out there like you have and i am grateful to be able to tell you in this little way how appreciative i am of what you have presented. it has changed and enriched my life more than i could ever say ... i love PUTUMAYO AND I THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR GIFTS ALL THE BEST

Carsten says …

Great stuff!! Could you guys do one about great American 30' and 40' Swing?

Ivy says …

Love the international flavor!

Mary C says …

Favorite: Andes music

Claire Ruf says …

I have loved Zydeco music ever since I went with friends to the jazz fest in New Orleans. The second year we went was quite an adventure. Some friends bought a six-sleeper pontoon boat and started out in Chicago for a trip down the Mississippi to NO. They picked me up in St. Louis and six days later we arrived in NO in time for the Jazz Fest. We listened to some great music on the way down and of course at our destination. That was way back in 1988 and the memories always come back when I hear some great NO music.

Mary Beth says …

Thank you for sharing free music and for introducting adults AND children to the music of the world.

Susan says …

I don't have a fovorite in the Putamayo collection but soul music and blues music are my favorites to listen to.

Audra Williams says …

We have the jazz cd and love it! Thanks for letting us enjoy music we would never have found otherwise.

Renee' Simmons says …

I love all kinds of music, esp. indie style. New Orleans & Jazz though are at the top of my list! Thank you for giving your readers this opportunity!

Amy says …

I make it a practice to listen to music from various cultures. This is especially true when I have spent time in different parts of the world. Nonetheless, I have found there are also wonderful local groups such as Kutandra that explore world music.

Don says …

My favorite cd is jazz around the world

Eileen Duncan says …

What a wonderful story! I have purchased your music and brought my family up with listening to it everyday. I share it with patient families and with friends. My own family went through a tremendous tragedy and music carried us through the days. This music not only enriches our lives but helps to heal and lifts spirits. I can't wait to hear your new CD. Two of my daughters have made trips to help cleanup and rebuild after Katrina and one of my volunteer groups also includes docs and nurses who are also master gardeners making trips to New Orleans. I love the people, the music, the food.

Tee says …

Hi, I wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoy all your cd's that you put together; however my two favorites are: South Pacific- love this! From Hawaii and love all the music, especially the one from New Guinea. Also love the one with Samba and Bassanova. Can't remember the name right off hand, but listen to it often. Oh, the other one is Kids playground cd. Great job in selecting perfect compilations. The more you do, the more people are exposed to great music from around the world. Love your story. Mahalo! Tee

Robert Leeds says …

There are so many excellent Putumayo CDs. One in particular I'll recommend is the Cape Verde.

deanna rosen says …

i volunteer @the slc 10,000 villages store (the fair trade store).we have the collection of putamayo cds to sell,but we also are playing the music all day long throghout the store.during the occasional down times,you can see the volunteers and staff dancing away(including me,of course).my favs are the indian,mideastern and african cds.keep 'em coming! deanna rosen

Denise Sokolowski says …

I am new to these CD's and from all the great feedback I can't wait to try them!

Vivienne Simon says …

Favorite Putumayo cd? That's easy -- Blues around the world.

Wendy G says …

My daughter *loves* all the Putumayo Kids cds we've heard so far, but I think our joint favorite is "Sing Along with Putumayo"!

Pattie says …

I don't know how I could ever choose only one that I love. I have many and enjoy listening to them frequently. I will tell you a story that I am sure you will appreciate. I work with cancer patients in a Radiation Oncology department. At a large university center where I used to work we often treated prisoners from the nearby Federal Prison. I would always play one of your CD's during a long session that would require the patient to be relaxed and still. My favorite at that time was the Celtic music. The prisoners often commented that they had never heard that kind of music before and would ask what it was because they felt calm and soothed while listening to it. Me too!

Claire says …

without a doubt, Portuguese fado is my favorite world music-it's Iberian blues at its finest!

Beth Villwock says …

I feel transported! My current Putumaya for a listening vacation is World Lounge.

Paivi Lohikoski says …

I love Putumayo records! I´ve got five cd`s and I´ll definitely get more. Not many people in Finland know yet about this record label, but I´m certainly spreading the message here :-) My favourite albums are Espana, Women of Jazz, World Lounge and Acoustic Brazil, or Music from the Coffee Lands. My two daughters (3,5 and 2 years) love to dance to this music also! We would love to get the newest Rhytm and Blues! Love Paivi

maureen tjoflat says …

Putumayo Music has been a great resource making music from around the world so accessible. My family has a number of recordings, including one of my favorites the Celtic CD's. I also love the World Music CD and curriculum with Passport Journals---it's a favorite of my middle school music students!!

denise petersen says …

I love Women's Work, and my son would never have learned the Bongo Bongo song if it weren't for the first World Playground! I sold Putumayo cd's in my coffee shop in Marin County in the late '90's and love them to this day. I miss the clothing stores, though!

Baba Ken Okulolo says …

Want to listen to the World through music that makes you feel good inside out? Turn your ears to Putumayo world music catalog. I own most of their releases and had enjoyed listening/dancing to them, including one of mine "The Super Sawwale Collections" by (Kotoja), as the first of their market test-release. It did great, thereby openning the door for others to follow. Thanks Dan for your insight and curiosity in decovery new music of the world; parked with so much power to heal people's mind, body and spirit. Keep on searching.

Mindy Klowden says …

I love the Jewish Odyssey. I feel like it has helped connect me to my roots, and inspired me to seek out other klezmer, israeli and traditional hebrew music. I play the whole CD every year at my annual hannukah party too!

Sonia Gutierrez says …

My personal favorite is Sahara Lounge. It's very soothing. The CD was playing in the background in the store I was visiting and bought it right there and then. I immediately opened it and played in my car when I left to see if the rest of the CD was as good as what I heard in the store and was not disappointed.

roberta cirocco says …

Wow the blending of things or threads in my past. The new CD is music I listened to in younger years, but over time I have owned several "international music" tapes, cds - even a Putumayo - Whole foods since its inception along with a few of its competitors over the years. My current international is "Anouar Brahem's Le pas du chat noir". My current WF's favs - tuna salads and cole slaws. Common threads across the world food and music let us all come together at the table.

kevin card says …

Dear Sir, my favorite cd is "New Orleans". This is because of the diverse musicans and songs mixed in together. Just like the city. I know you can't put on the cd every current artists, but the older artists are just as good as the current market. This allows the "sound bite" public to know that good music existed before they were born. Music from the 1920's to the 1980's were great too. I loved good music from anywhere. Thanks for allowing me to sound off on this note.

Jill says …

I have always wanted to go to New Orleans to hear the live music! This cd might be my inspiration.

Kara says …

My favorite Putumayo CD is my first one, World Reggae. My boyfriend/future husband bought it for me as a gift soon after we met, and anytime I listen to it, it transcends me back to those first weeks of a new romance. I never grow tired of it. Practice yoga to it. Chill out to it. See the world through it.

Roy Wittstruck says …

For most of my life, my musical tastes were limited to rock and blues. And while I couldn't sing like Elvis, (yes, I'm dating myself), I did learn to play the guitar well enough to play in several rock bands over the years. While vacationing in the Bahamas several years ago, my wife and I were exposed to Reggae. With that infectious rhythm plugging away in our minds, we felt that there had to be a way to join Reggae with our current music, which was Gospel. Our band director, a youthful and very talented musician himself, was excited by the project. In less than a month, a fairly conservative congregation was witness to a Reggae version of "Walk By Faith"..............and loved it! The point being that music, in whatever form, from Bach to the Beatles and all combinations in between, can lift the heart and soul. Expand the music in your life and you will expand your life in music.

Brad Kuklinski says …

Sunday evenings on the deck with Clinton Thomas as the Dub master giving us all sweet Reggae music. Then the adventure begins around the globe with the Putaymaya world music program. I share it with the neighbors and they all enjoys leaning over the bushes to cath a tune from Brasil, Ethiopia , Jamaica, or New Orleans. We have a great night and a real nice way to finish up the weekend. We listen on WTMD out of Towsen Md.Keep exploring I love it! Brad K. Annapolis Md.

Frank Hajdu says …

Wonderful music enjoyed by the whole family. Celtic Crossroads gets us going on overcast days!

Nancy says …

Bravo, Dan! Your dream realized is a wonderful gift to the world! How I wish the Putumayo resources and great website had existed when I was teaching school music -- perfect seed for multi-subject lifelong learning. I'll be purchasing the Caribbean samplers (thanks for donating the receipts to the Red Cross for Haiti) and I'm looking forward to the future release of Rhythm and Blues.

Karen says …

I love the Paris Cafe CD -- it instantly transports me to another world where I want to be. Beautiful, relaxing, soothing.

Rebecca says …

LOVE Putumayo Kids! It makes my daughter's music selection very enjoyable!

Mary Kay Powers says …

I enjoyed music from the Putumayo music from the coffee lands--it's an eclectic mix of lively, upbeat music.

Kris Hamilton says …

I have listened to many Putumayo CD's & I own 2 of them. My favotire Putumayo is the Wrold Reggae one! :-) It's the best music to have at a party & make everyone dance! It has great reggae from all around the world. It's what I like to call feel good music! Best thing is no one really knows who or what it is. So, people always asking me who this is & I get to tell them about Putumayo & the music! Great way to start a conversation & connect with others. Thanks for all the wonderful ways to enjoy this music!!

Kim D says …

This music really looks interesting; I have not heard of your company before seeing it online on the Whole Foods newsletter. Is there a website?

Kim says …

I love the CDs - it's a great way to learn about music from areas I might not have considered.

Nancy says …

Putumayo is an incredible social enterprise! I think world music is key to cross-cultural reconciliation. If we can begin to appreciate another culture's music and food, we can appreciate and respect the people of that culture. My favorite world music group is from southeastern Uganda and is called Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa. Check them out: http://www.kinobemusic.com/

Alexandre L'Eveille says …

I love to see the common threads among musicians around the world. One of my favorite world music initiatives is playingforchange.org.

Karen Stewart says …

Would love to hear this beautiful music. Thank You.

Laurie Grossman says …

Love them all, and it is so hard to select one...One World is the one that I listen to the most. I have been having a great time turning my friends on to the music.

Jennifer Jordan says …

It is because of the Putomayo CDs that I mastered my 2nd CD with Emily Lazar at The Lodge in NY, the same place Putomayo uses. The sound quality is spectacular, something we musicians value greatly. I own a few African CDs (including the one with all women which I LOVE), blues series, and bought the kid blues one for my nephew (love Taj Mahal!). Thank you for the sounds!

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