This year, Putumayo World Music celebrates ten years bringing cultures together through music. The label, established in 1993 by Putumayo Clothing founder Dan Storper, has released some 60 albums showcasing a range of musical styles from across the globe. The Putumayo catalogue is filled with CDs featuring melodies from exotic and far-away places such as Casablanca and the Caribbean, as well as more familiar settings like Dublin, Jamaica, and the Mississippi Delta. When it comes to finding the right kind of rhythm for any occasion, Putumayo really does have the world covered. The label’s reputation as a comprehensive and challenging musical educator has grown over the past decade, and it continues to win acclaim for its staunch commitment to highlighting multiculturalism and making the music of the world easily accessible.
One of the label’s most celebrated features is its wide range of compilation and theme albums. These albums each contain varying interpretations of certain styles of music—carnival grooves and gypsy soul to kids’ tunes and Christmas songs—from around the world. Native American Odyssey, for example, brings together music from the United States, Canada and the Andes, while A World Instrumental Collection features pieces from Arabia, Africa, and Korea. It’s these albums in particular that really demonstrate just how effective Putumayo’s musical experiment has become.
Putumayo’s latest collection is a dedication to the lullaby. The fifth recording in the acclaimed “World Playground” series for kids, Dreamland: World Lullabies and Soothing Songs is so much more than a record for the young’uns to fall asleep to. It’s a calming and meditative collection suitable for all ages, and is equally useful as a backing tape to a yoga session, mood enhancer for a romantic dinner, or even as the soundtrack to a cross-country drive.
Featuring tranquil tunes from Mexico, Australia, Scotland, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Canada, South Africa, the USA, Madagascar, and Benin, Dreamland is an encyclopedia of world lullabies with some tracks dating back hundreds of years having been passed on through generations. As each recording is brand new, it’s hard to tell the ancient from the contemporary, effectively demonstrating the timelessness of the art form.
Among the traditional songs featured on the album are the well-known and much-loved Jewish lullaby, “Numi Numi”, beautifully delivered in Hebrew by the gorgeous Tanja Solnik; the ancient Japanese “Cradle Song”, brought to life in all its Gothic glory by the Sanchin Café Orchestra; and the traditional Mexican lullaby “Arriba Del Cielo”, performed with great soul by Claudia Martinez. Some of the newer tracks include Carlos Santana and Angelique Kidjo’s haunting “Naima”, written by Kidjo for her young daughter, and Madagascan Erick Manana’s “Ny Fitiavako An ‘i Mama” dedicated to the singer’s mother who frequently sang to him as a child.
Other highlights include Australian Aboriginal group Letterstick Band performing the delicate “Yi-Rrana (Sunset)”, which is a completely unexpected blending of contemporary guitar with a traditional sounding vocal; Virginia Rosa channeling the spirit of Billie Holiday on the humid Brazilian piece, “La Vai Alguem”; and the delicate beauty of Zulya’s “Lullaby”, from Russia.
Dreamland is expertly put together, with each song easily bleeding into the next to create one long stream of mellifluous beats. There’s rarely a dull moment on this collection, which jumps and twirls in tempo in all the right places. The album’s cross-cultural appeal is instant, too, with one listen like a veritable world tour of breezy jazz haunts and moonlit back roads. Soothing, charming and downright therapeutic, Dreamland is guaranteed to relax the muscles and free the mind, and most importantly, to educate.