Anyone who thought Putumayo World Music hit its prime during the early-Nineties Birkenstock revival and organic Color Me Cotton clothing line for aging hippies has another groove coming. The label has never ceased to pump out a steady world beat, and these days it's gettin' downright funky. Artists from Iceland to the Congo are experimenting with mixes that make the term ethnic sound nostalgic — a serendipitous consequence of globalization, the Internet, and the DJ craze. Putumayo's recent compilations capture its essence. A New Groove delves into the international underground to discover the electro, dub, reggae, and hip-hop mixes that are heating up the sweaty nightclubs of countries like Denmark, Australia, and France. The sleek gyrations continue on the entire Groove series, which also features Turkish, North African, Brazilian, Gypsy, and world compilations.
All of this isn't to say that the world-beaters who came before didn't know what was up. Proving that point is this year's Latin Jazz compilation. Its dirty vintage sound takes you back to the days of Fania All-Stars, making you feel as if you were struttin' around in a Pink Panther movie. Kick off those clunky old Birks and get into the funky new grind. — Julienne Gage