V/A: Putumayo Presents Music from the Chocolate Lands

After selling 300,000 copies of their blockbuster release Music from the Coffee Lands, Putumayo are hoping to pull off the same trick with this cleverly themed collection of tracks from Africa, Latin America and India. And let’s not forget the influence of the Swiss and the Belgians when it comes to chocolate — and so, for good measure — their influence is felt here too.

A gentle and inviting track ‘Toto Bona Lokua’ by Lisanga kicks of the CD with layered and beautiful vocals delivered over laid-back percussion and subtle acoustic guitar work. It sets the tone for an album that never raises its voice above a silky purr. Anglo Indian songstress Susheela Raman delivers her trademark mix of chilled vibes and Asian flavours for her contribution ‘Sarala’. Her British connections are perhaps played down to avoid reminding the world of our low quality confections.
The aptly sourced Chocolate Armenteros from Cuba provide a groovy lightweight son extolling the virtues of ‘Chocolate Sabroso’. Although I can’t remember seeing much of the stuff when I was there, it calls to mind the conversation between the square protagonist and his gay friend in the classic Cuban film Chocolate y Fresas. “Why, when there is the luxury of having chocolate ice cream available, would anyone choose strawberry?” wonders our protagonist before having to deal with a whole slew of more dangerous lifestyle choices.
Staying in Latin America for a bit longer, there is a goodtime track from Brazil by Marcantonio, ‘Sabía’ and Belgian combo Think of One provide a great and offbeat track inspired by their month long stay in Brazil. But the track I was really looking forward to was ‘Valentín’ by Susana Baca, Peruvian goddess of music and show stealer from the Music from the Coffee Lands collection. Is it as good, well no but it is a very fine song nonetheless.
A stunning piece of kora playing provides the backdrop to ‘Yay Balma’, a collaboration between musicians from Switzerland and Guinea-Bissau.
So this likeable and well-researched companion to Music from the Coffee Lands is well on its way to joining its predecessor in selling by the sackload. Pick up a copy on your next trip to some alternative café or check out their website to buy online.

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