Music Review

A Milestone for Putumayo Records

Music of the AndesBy Jaime Peligro

Forty years ago, Dan Storper traveled to Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia to experience first-hand the countries he had focused on for his degree in Latin America studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He found himself enamored with the culture and opened a small South American clothing & handcraft shop in NYC, called Putumayo, after a river and a region in Colombia. The shop quickly garnered a reputation for its uniqueness and Storper soon found himself supplying forty other shops.

In 1993 while in San Francisco, Storper happened upon an African band named Kotoja performing in Golden Gate Park. It was an inspirational moment, the moment when World Music was coined. With the help of his friend Michael Kraus, the music label Putumayo and its first two recordings were launched the following year.
Jaime Peligro Books and Music

This year, Putumayo celebrates two decades of growing the label and its image. The theme of any given disc can be regional (South African, Asia, Caribbean) or a musical style (Reggae, folk, jazz) or other bonding threads, as with the new Putumayo Kids division. The label now boasts more than two hundred titles, has offices in twelve different countries and has sold more than fifteen millions CDs worldwide. It is not uncommon for an album of Reggae or Salsa music to offer fourteen songs by artists from fourteen different locales.

The artwork for all the Putumayo CD jackets is done by Nicola Heindi. Her style is a collage of traditional, folkloric and modernistic which I think exemplifies one of the Putumayo goals, which is to unite traditional and contemporary music and musicians. Another aspect of the label that sets it apart from most others and helps define the brand is the fact that every album sale supports a benevolent cause, usually defined in the liner notes in the album’s jacket. Every album is designed with a booklet written in English, French and Spanish as well, with an introduction explaining the theme of the album, then a blurb on each performing artist. This album design has become a mainstay in the current CD market, but it was Putumayo that initiated the concept of supplying the customer with an abundance of information.

To celebrate their twentieth anniversary, Putumayo has returned to its roots to release “Music of the Andes”, which includes Argentinean guitarist Suni Paz offering his rendition of “A la Huella”, a tribute to folkloric dance from the northern region of the Andes. Bolivia’s Punto Nazca perform the folk tune “Linda Boliviana” and Marta Gomez sings her way through haunting flutes in her original tune, “Carnavaliando”. In total, there are fourteen different Andean artists represented on the album.

In typical fashion, Putumayo is pledging one percent of the sales of this CD to Whole Planet Foundation in support of their microcredit initiatives in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.

Check for availability at Jaime Peligro Books & Adventure in Quepos and Jaime Peligro in Tamarindo.