Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Mesmerizing East meets West fusion from Putamayo World Music

You have to love the folks at Putamayo World Music.  If you’re not familiar with them, they scour the globe looking for outstanding music in every part of the world from any tradition you can imagine. Then they publish collections of the very best. I would give a finger to get a job with those folks. I’m sure that sometimes it would mean listening to some stuff that doesn’t do much for you, however well done it is. But it would also mean getting paid not only to explore the finest music Earth’s many cultures have to offer, but also to select music that you think the rest of the world might enjoy. Dream job.

Chillout in the desert.

I’ve listened to a lot of Putamayo releases, and it seems they approach this with a lot of integrity. They don’t seem to just look for music that will strike the Western ear comfortably and sell a lot of discs in the States. I have consistently found music that challenges my ear and sometimes stretches my definition of music. They also occasionally put out collections that fuse the best of some indigenous tradition with modern percussion and production values. Today, I’m recommending you check out just such a collection: “Sahara Lounge.”

Putamayo describes this disc as, “a mesmerizing album of laid-back fusions of traditional Middle Eastern melodies, rhythms and instrumentation with cutting edge electronica, hip-hop beats and remixes.” I have to hand it to them; it captures the disc very well. Of course, mixing Middle Eastern sounds with Western rhythms is not new, but I still love it and this is a collection full of well-executed songs in this vein. The disc has 12 songs and I ripped these 5.

  • Sharif – Shiraz
    This track kicks off the album. The percussion and backing synth are oozy but the plucked instrument (I must confess I’m ignorant about what it is called) is busy and beautiful. Great track.
  • Arhil – Bahia El Idrissi
    This is Qawwali music (think Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) with a simple 4/4 beat and some electronica effects sprinkled in. It reminds me of the great Khan/Brook collaborations, if you’re familiar with them. Sadly, this isn’t on YouTube, but you can go check out a sample on Putamayo’s site, where you can also buy the disc, if you’re interested.
  • Dub 4 Me – Soap Kills
    Soap Kills drops a reggae beat behind what could be snake charmer music and makes a pretty good chill out groove.
  • Elama – Yasser Habeeb
    This is more Qawwali music, but the track is bigger and more active than ‘Arhil.’ Traditional Middle Eastern instruments and Western synthesizer trade solos late in the track.
  • Hanina (Jamson Mix) – Jamson featuring Mohammed Mounir
    The vocal melody is pretty and the keyboards set a nice backdrop, but the percussion is mixed right up front. Some swelling synth completes the sound.

If you like these, consider buying the disc from Putamayo themselves. They deserve it.


May 17, 2010 - Posted by | Chillout, World Music


  1. I love Putamayo! I used to work at a place that sold & played their discs.

    I only own one, New Orleans Christmas. I think it’s great! I haven’t heard Sahara Lounge though, so I’m excited to check it out.

    Seriously, can you imagine how much fun you’d have working for them??


    Comment by Jenn | May 18, 2010 | Reply

  2. I might look for New Orleans Christmas. Is it mostly zydeco? I’ll have to hit the samples on their site.

    I spoke with a guy who is a DJ at a local classical station. Everyone tells him they covet his job. He says it’s not as fantastic as you might think. I wonder what the downside of working for Putamayo might be. Seems like it would be fabulous.

    Comment by missedmusic | May 18, 2010 | Reply

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