Dan Storper Interview
Contactmusic caught up with Dan Storper in London to talk about the history and future of his brilliant World Music label Putumayo Records.
Dan Storper spent his year 2000 New Year's Eve looking on as Nelson Mandela revisited the South African prison in which he spent 27 years of his life.
When Dan began the Putumayo World Music label in 1993, world music was limited in its distribution and general visibility in the United States. Since that time, we have begun to hear world music almost daily in commercials and film soundtracks, in the styles of well-known artists such as Sting and Madonna as well as on the radio. World music has snuck into the popular music of America, and it has stayed far too long to be a fad. Dan Storper's passion-turned-mission has helped make this possible.
Dan majored in Latin American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis and after graduating in 1973, headed to Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, where he fell in love with Latin cultures, folk art and the idea of wandering the world. The origins of Putumayo, named after a beautiful river valley in Colombia, began in a hole in the wall retail store in New York City in 1975. He filled his small shop with handicrafts and clothing he collected during his travels in Latin America. The store received considerable media and consumer attention and by 1982, Dan found himself designing and supplying clothing and crafts to 600 other stores. By 1985, Putumayo had three successful New York stores patronized by clients such as Greta Garbo, Jane Fonda, and Mia Farrow. Dan fell under the rapture of world music when he first heard a live concert of Kotoja, a Nigerian juju band, who are now featured on several Putumayo albums. Dan knew he had to get involved with this unique music.
Though the Putumayo store and wholesale business still exists, Dan sold them in 1997 to focus all of his energy on exposing people to world music. He now travels extensively and, with the support of ethnomusicologist Jacob Edgar, pays attention to the club and music scene in Cape Verde, Rio, New Orleans, Johannesburg, and every other place he can find the best world music has to offer. Dan does not have a home; he lives on the road and keeps his belongings in storage to facilitate his needs as a journeyman. Dan sees these albums as a gateway for exploring many of the world's amazing cultures.
Dan Storper's efforts have resulted in an independent label that has put out more than 50 CDs chronicling music from all areas of the world. Nearly every album has several tracks previously unavailable in the United States. He has pursued every medium possible to get the word out on world music, being among the first to market music in non-traditional venues such as coffee shops, health food stores, bookstores and gift shops. His efforts have paid off. There are at least 15 albums that have sold over 100,000 copies and over 3 million albums have been sold, quite a feat for a music that until recently barely existed in the American market.
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