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Putumayo: Traditional World Music for the 21st Century

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two decades or so, you've undoubtedly heard of Putumayo World Music, the music label founded by San Franciscan Dan Storper in 1991. Conceived as an entry-level introduction to all the traditional folk musics of planet earth, Putumayo's catalog now numbers 69 CD's with titles which include "Afro Caribbean Party", "Asian Playgrond", "Celtic Cafe", and "Kids World Party".

Putumayo's rise was an unorthodox one. Initially teaming up with Rhino Records for its first releases, Rhino distributed the albums to record stores, and Mr. Storper worked his specialty shop connections, eventually building that side of his business into an alternative distribution network that is the envy of the music industry.*

“I’ve built a business focused on creating compelling physical packages that combine music, culture and travel, that make great gifts and that sound very good,” says Torper, who finally joined the digital revolution in 2012 with the iTunes release of "African Beat" and "Latin Beat" in 2012.Those two releases were followed by dozens more over the ensueing three years, bringing the total to 43 volumes available through iTunes.

Convenient though the digital versions may be, they really don't hold a candle to the CD releases, all of which feature colorful, folk-art style artwork and extensive, yet unpretentious liner notes. The digital versions contain only the songs.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their late start to the world of digital, they must be doing something right. In their 22 years in the music biz, Putumayo World Music has sold some 27 million copies around the world. For a quick and colorful trek around the planet, check out their website:

*Sisario, Ben (29 August 2011). "At Last, a Label Goes Digital". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2015.

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