South Africa is on the radar these days as the countdown to the World Cup begins. Curious about the country but don't have the time or money to fly half way around the world? Try traveling through music.
Putumayo's latest country-themed release, "South Africa" is—in the classic fuzzy-wuzzy style of America's most ubiquitous world-music label—a "celebration of the diversity" of the destination. Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about Putumayo. While I enjoy the company's intentions (introducing people to music they might otherwise never know, giving charitably to the countries whose music it publishes, etc.), I'm not always the biggest fan of its sampler-style take on breaking international acts, or on the insistently feel-good focus, or on, well, of the commoditization of countries-as-musical-products.
But South Africa is a place with a rich musical tradition—various rich musical traditions, in fact—that few Americans have explored. And at least "South Africa" is a more legitimate representation of the country than the World Cup official anthem, which will be sung by rocker Shakira, who is...Colombian...
Plus, "South Africa" has a great lineup, including stars like the late Miriam Makeba and up-and-comer Steve Dyer. It just came out a few days ago. Give it a listen—and then don't forget to branch out.
Catesby Holmes is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.