Hey, what’s that I hear in the background? It’s nice, it’s perhaps a little worldly, it’s even got a little beat. It’s Hanukkah-like, but it also makes me feel like I’m in an airport gift shop. Which can only mean one thing: Putumayo has put out an album of Hanukkah songs.
“Putumayo Presents: A Jewish Celebration” is, for all intents and purposes, a Hanukkah album with a mix of klezmer, world, and even some Yiddish lounge music. There’s plenty that’s familiar — including a version of “Ocho Kandelikas” to satisfy the Sephardic audience — and some that might be new to you. The inclusion of the Uganda’s Jewish community, the Abuyudaya, would be ground-breaking if we hadn’t first heard it a decade ago. But that’s the story with Putumayo: None of it’s daring, and while you may snap your fingers or tap your toes, it probably won’t have you dancing in the aisles. But it’s not boring. Put it on quietly on repeat for your wintry cocktail party and your guests will have the times of their lives. Just don’t expect anyone to ask where the music came from.
“Putumayo Presents: A Jewish Celebration” is available Nov. 27 anywhere you can find artsy gifts or incense.