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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

ann says …

Artist mentioned are often listened to as well. Manhatten Transfer is in the number one place with Diana Krall right behind them. Album artwork (happy colors and composite super) is eye catching and brought me to write a blib. Look forward to the album and continuing treks through Whole Food stores wherever I might be... thank you for this opportunity.

Ellen Sherman says …

I must have about 10 Putumayo CDs and often give them as gifts. They are terrific! My favorite type of music is "world" and "roots." Putumayo sure knows how to make both obscure and better known music genres available to us in "mainstream" America! Keep up the great work!!!!

Jamie Benefiel says …

I have listened to Putumayo music on 91.9 WFPK, Louisville KY for years on World Cafe 6-8 p.m. M-F. Reminds me of my many travels to Mexico, Central & South America. Awesome music!

denise says …

I love Jose Conde y ola fresca! Though they're from NYC, they do incredible Latin music!!

cindy davis says …

I've been a gypsy traveller for 25 years. Your cd's bring the world and my friends from everywhere into my heart when I'm home. They lift my spirit. Thank you and congratulations.

Jenna C. says …

Our family loves so many different types of music, and all of the Putumayo CDs that we own! Right now, our favorite CD is World Playground, because it is upbeat and features a variety of music types.

Navin Jaffer says …

I absolutely love all the Putamayo CDs. Their CDs are the only ones that both my daughter, who is 19, and I love listening to. I look forward to hearing the new Rhythm & Blues CD.

Steve B says …

Music from India. What a trip. Fantastic!

Taysa says …

I have a collection of the Putamayo CDs that I started buying when they were first released in the Putamayo Clothing store I shopped in New York...I love all the Brazilian ones but my favorite is the North African Groove....it is a wonderful mix that really sparked my interest in that part of the world and Rai music.

L. Ward says …

Hi Dan, Thanks for the flashback...I actually worked in your store on Columbus Ave in NY from 1990-1991 & was witness to the wonderful effects (both mood & sales) that the "new" music/tape had on your customers & sales staff. I am intrigued to learn of the chain of events that brought such great music to my ears & have been meaning to contact you for a copy of the original tapes you played while I was there b/c one of the songs Crek Crek Crek (not sure is I'm spelling it correctly) is my absolute favorite & I haven't been able to find since. I can go on but will leave you with this...I do not have a "favorite" Putumayo CD per se just a memory of many old favorites as well as an exciting anticipation of the new releases. Best Rgrds, Lisa

L. Ward says …

Hi Dan, Thanks for the flashback...I actually worked in your store on Columbus Ave in NY from 1990-1991 & was witness to the wonderful effects (both mood & sales) that the "new" music/tape had on your customers & sales staff. I am intrigued to learn of the chain of events that brought such great music to my ears & have been meaning to contact you for a copy of the original tapes you played while I was there b/c one of the songs Crek Crek Crek (not sure is I'm spelling it correctly) is my absolute favorite & I haven't been able to find since. I can go on but will leave you with this...I do not have a "favorite" Putumayo CD per se just a memory of many old favorites as well as an exciting anticipation of the new releases. Best Rgrds, L

Deborrah Daher says …

My first was Putumayo Presents. I've since added Samba Bossa Nova and Rumba Flamenco to my collection. They're all great albums that keep me moving. I play them while I'm working - I'm an artist, and the music never lets me down. The wonderful rhythms and sounds of the percussion instruments keep the creativity flowing!

Tyrah says …

Thanks for making these wonderful CDs (and for packing them in the mostly paper) If I have to pick it's One World Many Cultures for my favorite CD, New Orleans Christmas is a close second. Dreamland is one of my favorite gifts to all the new moms that we know, and we adults love it too. It was fun reading your story.

Jan says …

My favorite is the Putumayo - Celtic Tides and Women of the World! They are uplifting and I never get tired of listening.

Kathi Koppa says …

Having managed a fair trade store where we sold your wonderful CDs, I have about 12 of them and I have to say my current favorite is African Playground. My 2-year-old son and I dance to the songs in our living room every morning and my husband, who's Ethiopian, really appreciates the song from his native land. Thank you for the vast array of children's CDs, and for representing so many cultures!

Donna Mazza says …

My favorite Putumayo CD is "Latin Lounge". I can't tell you how much pleasure it brings me every time I hear it whether in my car or at home (where I am apt to dance around the house as I listen). Fantastic!

Sita says …

We love Putomayo CD's. So funky and unusual. Our favorites are Asian Groove; Paris; and India.

Joanne says …

I, too, think that the spread of world music can do a great deal to achieving reconciliation across cultures. We tend to be blinded by sight, so to speak. Perhaps when we cannot see each other, the music lets us "hear" each other, moving us past boundaries we didn't even know we were guarding and aren't aware we have crossed until we look back at them in retrospect.

barbara says …

Favorite Putumayo CD is Jazz Around the World...

Patricia McWhorter says …

May I suggest some Ecuadorean Cumbia music? Los Graduados was my favorite band in Guayaquil in the late 1960s, early 1970s.I really liked the song Manuelito Barrios - There are also some groups singing songs in Quechua, the Indian language native to Ecuador. The play Huasipongo, written in Quechua, would also be worth sponsoring for production in the US.

mary delgiorno says …

Love Moso Manman Emeline Michel - nice to reflect on the great Haitian music, and see the true spirit of the people, in these struggling, sad time, can't wait....to get the CD

Vicki Gursoy says …

I use Putumayo music in my everyday life. My girls listen to World Groove since its got the beat they love. I place various songs into my mix for teaching cycling so my participants can be exposed. I played the Carribean party while on my cruise to Bahamas and then also after the earthquake. I love the vibe from this CD...keeps the blues away in the winter months in Chicago. I also use Sahara Lounge while teaching Pilates....super smooth.

tom stein says …

king sunny ade is my favorite world musician.

Leah says …

The fun, colorful Putumayo CD covers captured my attention and my heart the first time I saw the display. My first purchase? Latino! Latino! which I still thoroughly enjoy.

Deirdre says …

I love the Putumayo CDs. My favorite is Music from the Wine Lands. Several years ago we moved to Northern California and this CD created a perfect setting for our trips to Napa. Now whenever we have friends or family visit, we always have this CD playing in their guest room to welcome them to our home and create the right mood for their vacation to Northern California.

Anna says …

Putamayo was a great way to introduce my baby to world music. He's now a toddler and a huge fan of all kinds of music.

David Romportl says …

Hi....You have some great music!! Thank you!!

Margot Stiassni says …

Hi, I especially fell in love with Putumayo Music when I discovered their cds for children. For 4 years I taught a children's music class (ages baby-5) and often used the Putumayo Music for the free instrument play along in the middle of the class. Although I used the World Playground CD a lot, I eventually branched out to more of the kids' cds. The music is joyful, soul-full and deliciously delightful. I hope the company continues to grow and prosper and produce more great world music for all ages ! Thank you !!!!

Gloria says …

I am wondering where the name of "Putumayo" came from. I love it and I love the music too. I am from Colombia (South America)and there is a beautiful area with that name.

Peggy Sue says …

I can not wait to hear the new Cd, the vairety of music is appreciated. If you haven't heard Otis and Alligators try them for for some real hip swayin' blues.

NH says …

My favorite is the Brasiliero mix- so beautiful!

Nicole Skowronski says …

I just took a trip to Puerto Rico in the fall and saw a band there I fell in love with. Ithink their name was Desacero. They play Neyorican music. It is a combination of African and Latin music...

Bobette says …

I liked World Playground 2 the best.

Shannon Asch says …

I am an art teacher and use many of your world music cds in my art classes to enhance and create a complete, multicultural environment for my students to make their art. They love it! I think the Arfican Groove CD is so awesome! We were just maskmaking to it the other day!!!!!!

Becky says …

My absolute favorite Putumayo cd was Women of the World Celtic. Both my daughter and I (she was quite young at the time; 6, I think) loved listening to it and singing on road trips. I have since lost this cd and really miss it!

Cheryl says …

Putumayo Kids, for sure!

Cheryl says …

I LOVE Putumayo Women of Jazz which my friend just gave me! Putumayo Playground is fantastic music too!

Diane M says …

I love Women of Spirit. A friend gave it to me when I was facing a difficult situation, and to this day, it uplifts me when I hear that music. I have several other CDs, but I also especially enjoy Music from the Tea Lands. And, it gives me pleasure to buy something so wonderful that is produced by a company that is doing good!

Pamela says …

I have several Putamayo CD's. They rock! I love the history behind music and how it weaves into our lives. Putamayo allows me to hear music from around the world, to feel connected to the people who know how music brings us together. Oh, let me mention that I am a dancer, one who finds joy in throwing one of Putamayo's recording on at the end of the day and forget the stress from the day and "let go"!!!!!

Bob Finch says …

Attended a great Mono Lake Committee seminar on California Bighorn sheep in Lee Vining. After seminar leader worked our tails off climbing up and down the eastern sierra we spotted wild bighorns in Lundy Canyon--amazing! Came back to Committee office to decompress, found Music From the Chocolate Lands--have been listening to it ever since. Think 'Baba' a Belize piece which is truly amazing. Thanks, Putamayo.

Charlene Swalec says …

My favorite Putumayo CD is A Family Christmas, On A Family Christmas, Putumayo offers a collection of yuletide favorites by a fascinating array of artists that every family is sure to enjoy while trimming the tree or sharing a holiday dinner. Leon Redbone’s heartwarming interpretation of the holiday standard “Let It Snow” will keep you cozy on the coldest of Christmas nights. This is a joyous collection.

Amie Stockbridge says …

I LOVE the putumayo cd "french Cafe" It is a sure hit for a valentine's day gift.

Laraine says …

My favorite world music is by Toni Childs. Her CDs and concerts are wonderful and moving!

Irma says …

Next month I will be 67 years old. I have always loved music, all kinds of music. I am dumbfounded....where has my head been...I had not heard of the music Putumayo=Whole World Music....and the music with recipes....my head must have been buried in the sand. I gather from reading the article that Whole Foods is carrying these CD's. It is 1:21 a.m. and Whole Foods up the street is closed right now....but tomorrow, I will be introduced to these CD's and I can't wait. Thanks. Our heritage includes, Spanish, Mexican, French, American Indian and Italian-Add English/Indian(India) when you add our daughter in law and consequently our two young grandsons. What an adventure we have ahead of us.

kel mcnichol says …

I love that you incorporate music into groceries, making it a whole lifestyle experience. I have given these cds as gifts as they really are such a good selection and intro to great music.

Lara Brown says …

My fav would be New Orleans Christmas! Looking forward to the new one! I grew up on that kind of music. The 4tops Greatist Hits was the 1st album I bought.

Wendy says …

My daughter and I really enjoy these music CDs. We have a few of them from Brazil and Sesame Street (this one gets listened to EVERYDAY!).

Ann Kramer-Haag says …

Alverno college has the best world music fesival around in the fall. They have great artists from around the world all year long. Check it out.

Ken says …

I listen to music of all different types and nationalities and drive my family nuts -- they never know what I will have playing on the stereo or my iPod -- Putumayo is one of the best resources for expanding your music listening horizons.

Petra says …

I absolutely LOVE Putumayo!!! It's food for the soul...I appreciate the sounds of various instruments, beats and voices, which inspire me to learn about world music artists and their native countries, cultures, and traditions. In addition I have spread the word by buying numerous Putumayo Kids CDs as gifts for my friends' newborn babies.

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