Numbers: Putumayo will try unique outlets to increase sales

Yet, the language is incidental as the music’s message needs no translation. The beat takes the listener into a world of Latin dancers in flowing red dresses, tightly fitted pants, dancing one-on-one and aware of nothing but “baila". This CD is typical of Putumayo, a music company started in 1993, which aims to put together music from around the world. Its 160 CDs are each unique compilations created around enticing themes and are accompanied by booklets with information on all the artists.

Some transport the listeners to another place—French Café and Asian Groove are prime examples. Others are reminders of taste, such as Music from the Wine Lands. Then there are CDs such as World Reggae or Swing Around the World that showcase the best of a genre. And others, including Christmas Around the World, reminisce about special times. All these titles are part of the collection of 38 CDs available in India at Rs550.

Putumayo has been selling in India since 2004, with Asian Lounge, Swing Around the World, Salsa Around the World, Latin Groove and Asian Groove being the best-sellers. The two Asian compilations have a lower price at Rs390, and also include some Indian musicians such as Bally Sagoo.

“India is such a perfect fit for us because of how colourful it is, how musical it is, and its strong history and culture," says Candice Pascoal Vargas, Putumayo’s vice-president of international sales and marketing. But India is still a tough market for foreign music as Bollywood tunes and inspirational music dominate—from August last year till 1 October, the company sold only 4,840 CDs. But Putumayo is now taking its presence in India to the next level. In September, the company hired an India head to look for niche stores to sell the CDs—a non-traditional move it is known for in the US. The India lead will also look for new musicians as the company will be putting together its first all-Indian music compilation this year. Putumayo still goes out to seek hidden talent, its sale of 2.5 million units last year has ensured music pours into its New York offices every day.

While the US is still Putumayo’s strongest market, it has been selling abroad since 1995, and is now available in 140 countries. Its most loyal customers are in the US, Canada, France, Germany and Mexico. Putumayo ensures the music chosen for CDs has universal appeal—every person on the 70-large staff is asked to rate the tunes before they are chosen.

Each CD has a handful of musicians who are well known in their respective countries; the rest are musicians perhaps known only to their immediate families or have a local bar following. Music lovers can have the comfort of knowing they are trying something new. Plus, there is the bonus of potentially finding a new favourite artist based purely on music, and not on how many times the radio has played the hit single.

As for Baila!, be sure to taste song numbers four and 10. Even a few seconds of each song will show the consistently sanguine mood of baila, the hallmark of Putumayo.

In Production

Putumayo’s latest India releases

World Hits

This CD is atypical as it has classic 1970s and 1980s hits that have predominantly African and Latin American sounds from names such as Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger, Santana, Gipsy Kings and Jimmy Cliff. Play this at an outdoor party.

Rumba Flamenco

Think competitive couples salsa dance contest; sitting still without tapping fingers or shaking shoulders will be difficult. Listen while cooking, or play it at your restaurant.

A New Groove

This sultry, energetic music has the perfect flow for transitioning from work to play on weekend nights: easy jazz-and reggae-inspired sounds that move into R&B, hip hop beats.

Radio Latino

When driving on the highway from Mumbai to Pune or New Delhi to Jaipur, this is the music that should be on in the background; it lifts the spirit, but doesn’t disrupt the conversation.