Zanes: 'It's a great time to be celebrating the music and cultures of Latin America.'
Not enough people sing and dance just for the heck of it anymore. So says Dan Zanes, founder of '80s roots-rockers The Del Fuegos and now leader of an eclectic, multicultural collective that makes what he calls "all-ages music."
Fun, danceable, often educational and occasionally political, the songs of Dan Zanes and Friends provide "a shared experience" between children and parents, says Zanes, 46, who will bring his musical pals to the Overture Center on May 2 for a family pajama party. "We used to be such a musical country, but we're really not anymore. I think all that can change, and we just want to do our part."
To that end, Zanes and Friends' latest album, Nueva York!, is an up-tempo collection of Spanish-language songs with roots in several Latin American countries. The wild-haired guitarist and vocalist thinks the music's message transcends language barriers.
"I fell in love with a lot of these songs before I understood what they were about," he says. "It's a great time to be celebrating the music and cultures of Latin America. I see from my travels what's happening in our country, and the immigration discussion can get pretty mean-spirited. But we're all here together, and it's important that we acknowledge that. To sing with other people is to really fight back against the climate of segregation and exclusion."
Back in 1995, Zanes was celebrating the release of his first solo album, Cool Down Time. But listeners seemed more interested in a low-budget cassette tape he'd recently made -- which eventually became the first Dan Zanes and Friends CD, 2000's Rocket Ship Beach.
"Everybody wanted more copies of that cassette. It was the kind of music I couldn't find when I went into a store," says Zanes. "I felt like a useful member of society for the first time in a long time."
Zanes never looked back. He remains friends with the Del Fuegos, but don't expect a reunion. Instead, he's busy running Festival Five Records, which releases all-ages CDs containing some of the most elaborate packaging you'll ever see (recycled), and a live-action music show for the Disney Channel is on tap.
"We make music the old-fashioned way," Zanes says. "It's just that we're doing it for the 21st century."