Lounging With Putumayo
The Putumayo label, named for a river in Colombia, broke into the music scene some fifteen years ago, basically defining World Music and then catapulting it into global consciousness. Their packaging is easily recognizable, with eco-friendly jackets (sans conventional plastic jewel cases) and booklets that give comprehensive descriptions of each song and performer on the discs.
As with any forerunner in a big business, there have been many music labels that have followed the Putumayo prototype in the ensuing years. To maintain its defining role, the label has now released a series of discs with a common musical theme. The latest of these offerings by Putumayo is their Lounge Series. In the Latin culture, there have been two impressive contributions,
The Latin Lounge compilation CD sets the tone with “Reflejo de Luna” (Reflections of the Moon) by the band Alacran. The song blends traditional tango and flamenco with electronica, all complimented by the voice of Paola Fortini from Argentina. Next, Roberto Poveda from Cuba offers “Sueno Mama” (I Dream, Mama) an Afro-Cubano style, which is one of the roots of contemporary salsa, complete with muted trumpet. Other highlights on the disc include “Siempre Mi Quedara” (I Will Always Stay) by Bebe’, a young singer who’s star is definitely on the rise. Her sometimes crackling, understated voice sounds at times as if she is whispering through a megaphone. This effect, in tandem with the subtle percussive recordings, makes it one of the strongest, most memorable songs of this compilation. Another winner is “Mariposa en Havana” (Butterflies in Havana) by the Dominican Republic band Si*Se. The song sounds like a mix of old world Latin rhythms and Cuban sol with the contemporary backbeat of hip-hop. Jennie Oliver’s singing is perfect for this marriage of musical styles. It becomes evident that the Lounge style is made for a sultry, female bedroom voice. It works much better than the male singing on this disc.
To support this theory, along comes Brazilian Lounge, the second disc in this series. The female vocalists on this disc, Paula Morelenbaum, Luca Mundaca, Bia Krieger and Katia B, Bebel Gilberto, Marcela Mangabeira and Marissa all seem to have been born to prove this point. And the Brazilian Portuguesa language, with its soft consonants, and this new lounge musical style seem to be sculpted for each other. Putumayo even appears to have noticed this symbiotic match with the plethora of female talent presented on this disc.
Once again, Putumayo has set a new standard for the World Music world. The new series is hip and ethnic without sounding cliché. It should be interesting to see what follows, both from Putumayo and its clones. Putumayo’s Lounge Series CDs are available at Jaime Peligro, Tamarindo’s oldest book store, where they will gladly sample the CDs for customers.All comments concerning this article are welcome.