Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:
We listen to some music from a record company that helps listeners explore different musical traditions …
And we answer a question about Wal-Mart stores.
Our VOA listener question this week comes from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Foqrul Islam asks about the huge American discount store called Wal-Mart.
The first Wal-Mart store opened in nineteen sixty-two in Arkansas. Businessman Sam Walton believed a store could succeed by selling more products at lower prices than other stores.
His idea proved correct. Lower prices brought more people into the store and resulted in more sales. Within five years, the company had twenty-four stores in Arkansas. Wal-Mart expanded outside the state in nineteen sixty-eight, and began trading stock in nineteen seventy-two. Wal-Mart opened its first international store in Mexico in nineteen ninety-one.
Today, Wal-Mart is one of the largest companies in the world. It sells more than three hundred billion dollars worth of goods in more than six thousand stores. It employs almost two million people in thirteen countries.
People shop at Wal-Mart mainly for the low prices. The stores also offer many different kinds of products, from food to furniture to clothing. However, some people refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. They say the company pays low wages, is not fair to women and treats its workers poorly.
Wal-Mart also has been criticized for opposing unions and buying many of its products outside the United States. Many Americans oppose the building of Wal-Mart stores in their communities because they say the huge stores ruin local businesses.
Wal-Mart has had other problems recently. Last year, the company closed its stores in Germany and South Korea because of poor sales. In August, Wal-Mart announced that sales at stores open for at least a year increased only about two percent in the business period that ended in June. That was the worst showing in the company’s history. And its share price on the stock exchange has not increased since two thousand.
Recent news reports say Wal-Mart is trying to improve the public's ideas about the company by becoming more environmentally friendly. Last month, Wal-Mart announced that it is joining with the Carbon Disclosure Project to measure the amount of energy used to create the products it sells.
Officials say Wal-Mart wants its suppliers to reduce the amount of harmful gases they release into the atmosphere. And they say that Wal-Mart wants other large companies to do the same.
Putumayo World Music
Putumayo World Music helps listeners explore different musical traditions. The record company recently released an album called “World Hits.” The eleven songs on this album are world music songs that became internationally successful. They are called "crossover hits" because of their popularity in both local and international markets. Putumayo says the songs show that people love good music no matter where it comes from. Barbara Klein has more.
That was the song “7 Seconds” performed by the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and the Swedish-born singer Neneh Cherry. Youssou N’Dour was born and raised in Dakar. He started singing as a young man and soon became one of the most popular singers in Senegal. Later, he performed around Europe and recorded songs with the famous singers Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. The song “7 Seconds” sold over two million copies around the world, making it one of Youssou N’Dour’s most financially successful single recordings.
Putumayo World Music also has an interesting success story. Dan Storper started the company in nineteen seventy-five. He owned several Putumayo stores that sold handmade clothing and objects from South America and other parts of the world.
By the early nineteen nineties, Mister Storper had seven stores. One day he heard African singers performing outside in a park in San Francisco, California. He bought their album and started playing it in his stores. His workers and customers loved the music. Dan Storper soon started Putumayo World Records to support international musicians and introduce people to new musical traditions.
The company has released one hundred fifty recordings. Some albums include the songs of one artist. Other albums combine different artists from one area of the world.
The company’s goal is to make music that is “guaranteed to make you feel good.” Dan Storper sold his stores in nineteen ninety-seven and now works on his music business full-time. He says that great music helps connect people to other cultures in a good way. He says this helps people see past the bad images of war, poverty and disease that are so often in the news.
That was the song “(You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back” performed by Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Peter Tosh was one of the most popular reggae musicians in Jamaica. He and a group of reggae musicians including Bob Marley created the band called the Wailers in the nineteen sixties. When Peter Tosh left the Wailers, he continued recording on his own. His performance at the One Love Peace Concert in nineteen seventy-eight caught the attention of Mick Jagger. Peter Tosh soon started recording and performing with the Rolling Stones.
Since its beginning, Putumayo has taken on other projects. In two thousand, the company started a one-hour-long weekly radio show called Putumayo World Music Hour. The show plays music from different cultures by unknown as well as famous artists. Over one hundred fifty radio stations around the world broadcast the music show. The company even makes a series of world music records for children on its Putumayo Kids label.
Putumayo also gives money to non-profit organizations around the world. For example, part of the profit from the “World Hits” record will be given to World Learning. This international organization supports intercultural learning and economic development through its training and education programs.
We leave you with the song “Lambada.” It was first recorded by a Bolivian band. This version was made in nineteen eighty-nine by the French band Kaoma. The song is performed by the Brazilian singer Loalwa Braz. “Lambada” became a huge hit, first in France and then around the world. Its lively beat makes you want to get up and start dancing.
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.