Last updated: June 12, 2024

(Credit: Nicola Heindl)

Introduction

It was either Starbucks or the local library. I’m not sure which came first, but something drove Y2K-me to seek music from all around the world, and Putumayo Records played a major role in either case.

I think my very first Putumayo acquisition was actually Music from the Coffee Lands II that I bought totally on impulse at a Starbucks. Tossed it in with my tall caramel macchiato (no whip). Are you old enough to remember when Starbucks Coffee sold music CDs? Well, I definitely am, and I’m positive it wasn’t the only CD I purchased there, either.

To this day, Coffee Lands II remains my favorite Putumayo release, and I can’t thank it enough for introducing me to Ejigayehu Shibabaw, who makes music under her stage name Gigi. I was completely blown away by Putumayo’s choice of song, “Guramayle,” which was my gateway into popular music from Ethiopia (which is amazing, by the way). In a nutshell, Coffee Lands II solidified my love for music from all over the world.

This discovery occurred right around the same time I discovered the international music section of my local library. This was back in the days when I made my own music almost entirely within a waveform editor. These were extremely sample-oriented plunderphonic mashups à la The Avalanches, or laptop folktronica like early Four Tet.

I did a lot of armchair-travel when I was a teen, borrowing Lonely Planet books from the local library. There’s no doubt I accentuated my journeys with the folk music traditions I found on the CD racks. I would try to work any sounds I thought were especially cool into my own sound-collages. And you can bet that I found my fair share of Putumayo compilation albums throughout this process, too.

The truth is, Putumayo compilation albums are beautiful to listen to, but also just to look at. Nicola Heindl’s distinctive style is exuberant, joyful, and just the perfect complement to Putumayo’s sensibilities. It feels like the International Day celebration, one of my most favorite events back in elementary school.

Current collection

The collection as of May 2024. See the full-sized image.

Catalog No. Year Title Notes
PUTU 126-2 1996 One World 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUTU 131-2 1997 ¡Latino! ¡Latino! 01/27/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUTU 134-2 1997 Women of the World Celtic II Feb 2024, Community Thrift, San Francisco
PUTU 135-2 1997 Music from the Coffee Lands 01/27/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUTU 137-2 1998 Women of Spirit 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUTU 145-2 1999 Mali to Memphis 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUTU 150-2 1999 Brasileiro 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUTU 151-2 1999 Africa 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUTU 156-2 1999 Cape Verde 05/05/24, Community Thrift, San Francisco
PUTU 172-2 2000 Latinas: Women of Latin America 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUTU 182-2 2000 A Jewish Odyssey 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUT 189-2 2001 Arabic Groove Feb 2024, Community Thrift, San Francisco
PUT 192-2 2001 African Odyssey (Promom) 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUT 206-2 2003 Global Soul (Promo) 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUT 213-2 2003 Salsa Around the World 05/06/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUT 219-2 2003 French Café 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUT 230-2 2004 Music from the Chocolate Lands April 2024, Community Thrift, San Francisco
PUT 235-2 2005 Afro-Latin Party 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUT 239-2 2005 Swing Around the World 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUT 241-2 2005 Latin Lounge I’ve had this forever, maybe bought at Tower Records or Rasputin in Mtn. View?
PUT 249-2 2006 Paris 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUT 268-2 2007 Israel 05/31/24, Half Price Books, Berkeley
PUT 276-2 2008 African Party 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco
PUT 376-2 2019 Acoustic Women 06/12/24, Amoeba Records, San Francisco

Records I’m sure I bought when I was younger

Hopefully I didn’t get rid of them. I pray they’re still buried in my parent’s garage somewhere.

(Credit: Nicola Heindl)

Notable mentions

Kotoja — Sawalé

I own Kotoja’s Sawalé on compact cassette, published in 1992 by Mesa Records. This isn’t a Putumayo recording per se, but it is intimately related to Putumayo’s history.

Putumayo founder Dan Storper’s encounter with Kotoja is what inspired him to get into the music business in the first place. According to Putumayo’s website:

In 1991, on his return from Indonesia Dan stopped in San Francisco where in Golden Gate Park he happened upon an African band named Kotoja – who was performing upbeat Afro-beat music to a happy, dancing crowd. That chance occurrence led Dan to start the Putumayo World Music record label with his friend Michael Kraus in 1993.

Kotoja’s influence on Storper was so significant that their songs appear in Putumayo’s very first records.