Global Music for Discerning Listeners

Dan Storper, founder of Putumayo, values off-the-beaten-track rhythms

Sound uplifting? The company’s motto: “Guaranteed to make you feel good!” How can the music really induce the listener into feeling good enough to set aside regular worries?

“The underlying strength is the music’s melodic elements. We seek music that is rooted in traditional cultures but which has contemporary influences and appeal.  It’s important to us to seek music with melody, that’s well-recorded and has appealing voices.”

Putumayo has released nearly 110 albums, of which about 90 are thematic or regional collections. The selection includes music from Africa, Asia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Louisiana. There are albums completely dedicated to blues, Celtic folk music and other genres. Global-themed albums capture music from all over the world that fall into different categories. The covers feature the distinctive graphics of Nicola Heindl, according to the company’s description, because her “colorful, folkloric style represents one of Putumayo’s goals: to connect the traditional and the contemporary.”

How does Putumayo select songs?

“I have to believe that a song has broad appeal and will, in fact, stand the test of time.  Some wonderful songs don’t make it to the final album because they just don’t fit in the sequence which is also an important part of the finished CD,” said Storper.

One of Putumayo’s newest releases, “Blues Lounge,” demonstrates a perfect fusion between blues and electronic music. Inspired by musicians like Moby, whose track “Run On” is on the album, several virtually unknown artists have made exciting steps towards creating a new culture of music inspired by American roots music but appealing on a global scale. Another recent release, “World Groove,” offers a similar style collection through its upbeat, global dance party featuring dance music from around the world.

“Music From the Chocolate Lands,” another new album, offers a creatively devised assortment of songs from the tropical countries that grow cocoa beans as well as collaborations with musicians from Europe’s chocolate-producing regions. The albums are available at Barnes & Nobles, Tower Records, Virgin Records and several other stores throughout the city.

Putumayo even launched a U.S. tour this year for “Women of Latin America,” a new soulful gathering of exceptional Latin divas. Three artists, from Colombia, Chile and Brazil, finished a 29-city tour in Seattle on November 23, after beginning on the East Coast in October.

Storper is already planning more tours. “I do hope that we’ll be able to do at least an annual theme tour and are starting to plan another one for Fall 2005.”

Storper said that Putumayo plans to continue its mission of bringing international music to the everyday listener, and doing it through an comprehensive collection of albums.

On December 7, Putumayo World Music is throwing a CD release party celebrating another new album, “South Pacific Islands,” a collection of contemporary music from the islands of the South Pacific. Join the crowd and DJ Nightshade with live percussion at 8 p.m. at BLVD, 199 Bowery, corner of Spring St. Free admission 8-9 p.m. ($5 after) and complimentary drinks and appetizers. To RSVP for the party, e-mail eventsny@putumayo.com or call 212-982-7767.

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