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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

Barbara Selmo says …

We played Putamayo's "World Playground" and "Sing Along with Putamayo" for our children endlessly when they were little. These two cd's were our go-to play time and bed time music. We loved them!

Laurie Stuckey says …

I love all the Putamayo music, but my favorite ones have to be the cd's for children. My daughter asks me for the "jumpy music" and we put it on and dance around the kitchen together, giggling and laughing.

Chris Staley says …

Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra - Beggers and Saints When I want to travel the world through music, I reach for this CD. It has classical Indian instruments (for that Far East sound)accompanied with vocals (English/Sanskrit/Hindi) that have a funk-pop vibe. Some instramental to relax to and some that make you want to dance. Great balance, which we all need more in our lives.

Marilyn Stemp says …

I've always enjoyed the jazzy sounds of Hugh Masakela.

Mary Epstein says …

I have listened to many Putmayo Cd's but my all time favorite is " Women of Jazz." When I listen to the music on my Ipod, I feel as though I am in New Orleans surrounded by each and every one of these fabulous female artists who sing their melodies with such heart and joyous rhythm.

Elaine says …

I have the Portuguese and Italian Putumayo CDs and I love them. Lots of happy songs.

Kurt Rowe says …

I've been a fan of Putamayo World music for quite some time. Latin American, African, Caribbean, and especially Rhythm & Blues, New Orleans style ... its all SO good! Thanks and keep up the great work.

Howard says …

I have a number of these CDs but my current favorite is Italia — my daughter got it for me at the Whole Foods near our house for Christmas because my wife and I are going to Italy in March for our 35th anniversary. It's on constantly to get us in the mood for the trip (as if we needed more incentive!) Great music.

Renee Potere says …

I love that your passion has become your work by serendipity. Magical that you love your work and certainly part of being Whole is great music ! Renee

E. Brooks says …

My favorite Putamayo CD... that's a tough one....there are so many good ones..... But since I have to pick just one favorite it will have to be Celtic Tides.

Jean says …

I like Vampire Weekend's music - their eclectic sytle and rhythms.

Denise DiFalco says …

I am a Big Fan of all types of world music. I think Music is the Key to our connection. Music spreads joy and love. Thank you for the AWESOME opportunity~

R. M. says …

I do not own a Putumayo CD. I have heard the CDs when I have been in bookstores, coffeeshops and boutique stores during my travels across the country. I especially like the Latin and African flavored/themed songs; you can't help moving to the rhythmic beat.

Ted says …

I have downloaded some awesome samplers of African music that I really enjoy. I would love to hear this too.

Traci L says …

I am a big fan of Putumayo CD's! Whenever I am stuck in traffic, I put one of them on and it is like going on a mini escape/vacation!

Cornelius Ejimofo says …

The Habib Koite CD Ma Ya is one of my favorites but I have not heard on I don't like yet. Thanks for the music.

jeff says …

music knows no borders

Bett says …

Can't wait for this one. This style of R&B was the music of my youth, and hearing it brings me right back to the old days!!

Karen says …

I love the Asian Lounge and the Latin Lounge collection The music can be relaxing and energizing all at same time1

Alyce says …

We got the Dreamland CDs for our twins when they were born and they are wonderful for our evening bed time routine.

Anne says …

I love the Brazilian music cd for children. My husband is from Brazil and we wanted to introduce our daughter to the music and not have to order cds from brazil. I was very impressed and my husband was familiar with most of the songs. She now knows a few of the songs by heart and is speaking more portuguese! Thanks

lacey says …

Hi! One of my favorites is Braziilan Lounge. Keep up the good work and cant wait to hear more! If there any other place to get them besides wholefoods and online?

Shirley Abreu says …

While I love listening to blues, African music is a big draw with me. From Afropop, Griot to djembe I'm mesmerized by the various areas. Artists like Angelique Kidjo, Konono No. 1, Youssou N'Dour Fela Futi, Ali Farka Touré

Jessica says …

The French Cafe is my favorite so far, it is so upbeat and always puts me in such a good mood.

Jana says …

I love Putumayo-my fav right now is the Salsa Around the World. Can't wait to hear this new one!

Susan H. says …

The at-risk kids I work with love African Groove, as do I. When I'm home, getting the cleaning done I love to listen to Women of Spirit and I get to mentally travel somewhere else while the mundane gets done.

Gail says …

I'm really enjoying the New Orleans collection I recently purchased. These cd's aare getting me in the mood for Mardi Gras.

Alyssa says …

I like hearing new things everyday. Today I heard a group from the Sahara and was completely won over. It's really wonderful to have this music in the middle of Whole Foods, rather than pairing cheese with wine, pair your dishes with complementary cultural music!

Karen Schaub says …

I second the vote for "From Congo to Cuba"---I listen to it all the time and fondly remember the drummer Balla Tounkara who used to drum for some of my west african dance classes in cambridge--I'm sure he still does...although its been a while for me ;0 Its great also to have access to Putumayo radio on iTunes...I've been introduced to all sorts of new artists (concha buika is one of my all time faves) just by listening in while working. LOVE it! Keep up the good karma!

Kan says …

I love world music that blends the sounds of our ancestors with more modern electronic music. When done well, it's amazing how many of these take up one playlist after another. Azam Ali and her side projects Niyaz and Vas stand out as favorites. Vas steers away from the electronic and leans on heavy vocals and folk instrumentation, but all three are amazing. Her main site is here: http://azamalimusic.com/ More recently, music from DharmaMix (especially the ones with the Dalai Lama and Sadhguru), although it is only part world for some songs while others are more modern electronica. http://www.dharmamix.com/ Finally, I absolutely love Ryuichi Sakamoto, as he blends elements of classical with world with electronica. He has admitted having great difficulty in bringing them together, and often classifies his own works as "experimental". Most people only know him for his classical works, as they've filled many soundtracks for movies, but his catalog is amazing. http://www.sitesakamoto.com/

Jessica Coulon says …

I own many Putumayo CDs, and especially love those with Salsa and African music!

JACKIE WILSON says …

I was there on that lovely day when Dan first heard Kotoja. Putumayo has done so much to put world music (and Kotoja!) on the American cultural map. Good job!

Corrinne says …

It's almost impossible to choose which Putumayo CD is my fav...but if I have to choose just one...I guess it would be Samba Bossa Nova...always puts an instant smile on my face. :)

DeniseEPL says …

I love the French Cafe cd, I turn it on make a cup of tea & my afternoon blahs melt away. Before I know it my girls & I are dancing our hearts out & laughing with delight.

Matt DeWolfe says …

Ethiopiques, especially Volume 4 which features the sublime works of Mulatu Astatqe. The arrangements convey the wideness of the desert and the richness of the cultural awakening at the time. Like a succulent flower in the hot sun.

Winston "Dub" Riley says …

I've got that Putamayo Rhythm and Blues CD and it is the best CD to play blues harmonica to that I've got! But I saw your tweet about reporting our favorite World Music. This is very different than that and this particular one is a beautiful sad song but I get the feeling that the artist has many other beautiful songs so I'm submitting this for your attention. If you like it, you'll have the power to promote it in a way that very few other art lovers can. Cheers! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yfpMGcvGVY&feature=player_embedded

Melissa says …

World music is amazing!! French pop and alternative Danish music are my favorites!

Sandy says …

"Love Only Love" by Imaj http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcoNVOgjZhI

Matt says …

Gotta be the music of south and east Africa. I backpacked there fro 8 months in '96. The music is positive above all else. Every mode of public transport I travelled upon had the music playing. Something about it just gives you a smile. South Africa and Zimbabwe immediately come to mind. When I was there Oliver Mtukudzi was king. "Tuku" they called him in Zimbabwe. The true spirit of life is in this music. That's my vote!

Susan says …

Favorite music is Jazz. Real Jazz. John Coltrane, Joe Williams, Rosemary Clooney, Russell Malone, Miles, Monk, Bill Evans, etc.

Ari says …

It's simple, we need some Margarita in our lif's.

Kim B says …

I love the Putumayo African Playground CD - I know it's for kids, but it totally gets me moving too!

GregI says …

One of the most eye-opening CDs I had heard from Putamayo was Women in World Music. So many great female voices including the woman who soon became my favorite voice anywhere - Angelique Kidjo. So much soul, depth and warmth in one woman's voice - combining all the joys and sorrows of life, exhalting the sheer joy of singing.

Jessica sololmon says …

Trevor hall is my all time favorite musician. He is incredible in person not just on his cd. What a fantastic man! I also love Bombay jayshree. She has such a beautiful voice. These are the two I listen to when I have had a stressful day and need to relax.

F. Martinez says …

Thank you for bringing attention to a beautiful place that fosters so much culture. I can't wait to hear the new comp.

Jacqui' says …

Interesting article has me wanting to hear a sample of the songs on the Putumayo CD. I'm intrigued!

Jennifer Anderson says …

Putumayo music is the chaos equalizer in our household. I put the CDs on when I arrive home from work - and the music provides a calming influece on both my kids and even my dogs

Dr. Dolly says …

I love a variety of world music, especially salsa and cuban. Since I have a little one, lately, we listen to a lot of Putumayo Kids CDs, and Picnic Playground is my family's favorite!

Barbara says …

"Rhythm and blues will cure most anything!" When you got a case of the down and outs, it' your day in the barrel...listening and dancing (you know you can't help from dancing) will pick you right up. Every country has its own form of rhythm and blues. But, it all goes to the same place - the heart.

Keisha says …

I love Putumayo. My nieces had a lullaby CD done by this company. I listened to it as much as they did! The songs were great.

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