Homespun fun with Dan Zanes

Dan Zanes, the former Del Fuegos frontman-turned-children's music superstar, has built up an all-ages fan base with festive and soulful "hand-made" music reminiscent of an old-time family singalong.

The Brooklyn-based performer and his band will appear in concert at the Orange County Performing Artscenter in Costa Mesa at 2 p.m. Saturday and at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday.

"People are coming to the shows knowing that they'll be asked to sing and dance, so now the singing's louder, earlier from the audience and that's pretty cool," Zanes said by phone from New York.

The wild-haired, whiskey-voiced but mild-mannered Zanes will perform songs from his many family CDs as well as a few tunes from his newest album, "¡Nueva York!," a celebration of Latin American music.

Zanes, who began learning Spanish a few years ago, said the CD is in response to his heightened awareness of the country's diversity and to "so much of this negative talk about immigrants."

"What I've recognized is that here in the U.S. we're all in it together. Everybody's got their songs and stories. But not everybody is invited to the party. So here's another possibility for the 21st century: How about we're not afraid or suspicious of each other and we all sing together and appreciate and celebrate what each has to offer?"

"¡Nueva York!" includes songs from Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

Among the rich mix of musical talent on the CD are the Villa-Lobos Brothers mariachi group, Broadway's Daphne Rubin-Vega, noted guitarist Marc Ribot, rapper La Bruja and alt-folk singer Lila Downs.

"Hopefully the spirit of collaboration comes through," Zanes said. "That was such a big part of it."

As research for the project, Zanes spent time in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Peru and with humanitarian aid groups at the Arizona-Mexico border.

"I didn't know that family music would take me to this place," he said, "but it's opened up the world to me."


-- Lynne Heffley

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