Q&A with Putumayo World Music Founder and CEO, Dan Storper - Page 2

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How does Putumayo pick the artists and themes for its CDs?
For the first five years, I did all the research. I continue to make the final selections and choose the sequencing for each album. Jacob Edgar, our head of Artists and Repertoire and now founder of a sister artist label, Cumbancha (www.cumbancha.com), has been researching music for us for the past eight years. He's an ethnomusicologist with great interest in world music.

Does Putumayo record the songs, or obtain previously recorded music?
We generally don't record songs. We license existing material that we discover during our research or that we have in our archive of more than 10,000 songs. All the artists are professional musicians (whether or not they make a full-time living from it). Others do approach Putumayo with CD ideas although we find that, for us, homegrown ideas seem to work best. We're not always able to license every track we want, but we do manage to get 95 percent of the ones we'd like to include.

I read that you ask Putumayo employees for their opinions on which songs to include. What other decision-making processes do you use?
I probably listen to a song 50 times or more by the time I decide to finally include it on a CD. If I still like it after 50 listens, there's a pretty good chance that it won't bore or annoy people. I try to select songs which I like but also my staff appreciates.

What's one of the more humorous ideas for a compilation that you've heard?
We joke around sometimes about bizarre names. One of the funniest was "From NASCAR to Madagascar."

Your website mentions that a large portion of Putumayo's target= audience consists of "Cultural Creatives." What is a "Cultural Creative"?
A sociologist, Paul Ray, coined the term. I'm not an expert, but it is used to characterize about 50 million Americans who tend to be well-educated, travel, and are curious about the world. There's also a tendency for them to have liberal values, have a desire to live an environmentally and socially aware life.

What's on the horizon for Putumayo?
There are scores of projects we're working on. We have particular interest in developing a TV project with music specials from different parts of the world. This October/November, our Acoustic Africa tour—in conjunction with a CD release of the same name—featuring Habib Koite (Mali), Vusi Mahlasela (South Africa), and Dobet Gnahore (Ivory Coast), will appear in 27 cities in the U.S. This is a result of our ongoing effort to bring live international music to audiences in the U.S. and around the world.

Any interesting anecdotes that you could share from your time in this field?
Probably the most unusual moment for me was visiting the prison where Nelson Mandela was kept for 27 years, as part of a Millennium celebration honoring him on Robben Island in South Africa. He said that the music of Miriam Makeba and others helped keep his spirit and hope alive during that period. If he could live through that and come out with his spirit intact, there's no limit to what human beings can accomplish with commitment, hard work, and some great upbeat music to keep them going.

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