Various Artists

A Putumayo Blend: Music of the Coffee Lands

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A portion of the proceeds from this 1998 release (which spans 1982-1996) went to Coffee Kids, a New England-based non-profit organization whose goal was to improve conditions for coffee growers and their families in coffee-producing countries. Most (but not all) of those countries are in South America, and many of artists heard on this rewarding CD are South American. Illustrating the vitality of South American music are Peru's Susana Baca on "Maria Lando," Costa Rica's Juan Carlos Urena on "Este Son," Brazil's Raimundo Sodre on "M'Ban Samba," and Colombia's Claudia Gomez on "Soltarlo." But while Latin America has the world's best-known coffee growers, Putumayo reminds us that coffee is also grown in other parts of the world by including songs ranging from Hawaiian guitarist James Bla Pahinui's "Gabby Kai" to Congolese singer Ricardo Lemvo's "La Milonga de Ricardo en Cha-Cha-Chá" (an invigorating mixture of salsa and modern African pop). Like many other Putumayo compilations, Putumayo Blend: Music of the Coffee Lands is as surprising as it is enriching.

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