Grammy Award-winner Dan Zanes occupies a unique place in American music – where sea shanties, English Music hall, play party songs, the spirit of early rock-n-roll, soul, North American and West Indian folk music collide. For the past 15 years, he has toured the world with his band, Dan Zanes and Friends, sharing handmade 21st century social music with enthusiastic crowds of kids and kid sympathizers.
From thrift shop basements to Carnegie hall, from Brooklyn to Bahrain, Zanes has been introducing new songs and reconnecting people to the forgotten music of the past. Referred to as “the family-music genre’s most outspoken and eloquent advocate” by Time Magazine, his critically-acclaimed music has been featured on Sesame Street, Playhouse Disney, Nickelodeon, HBO Family and Sprout. Over the course of 15 albums, 2 DVDs, 2 picture books, and dozens of videos, he has collaborated with Philip Glass, Lou Reed, Angelique Kidjo, Natalie Merchant, Carol Channing, Sharon Jones, Bob Weir, Debbie Harry, Rosanne Cash, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and many more.
In the 1980’s Zanes was a member of The Del Fuegos, a roots rock band who released several albums and toured heavily before spontaneously combusting in 1989. In 1994 he became a father and began trying to create music that he and his daughter could enjoy together as a shared experience, an updated version of the Folkways records he grew up on. In 2000, Zanes moved to Brooklyn and released Rocket Ship Beach, which became an immediate hit with families in America. NPR called him “The Gold Standard in kid’s music.”
In the fall of 2017, Dan and his wife, Haitian-American jazz vocalist Music Therapist Claudia Eliaza, premiered Night Train 57: A Sensory Friendly Comic Folk Opera at The Kennedy Center. They’re currently touring this show with Mexican percussion player-turned-comic actor Yuriana Sobrino. Night Train 57 is the first piece commissioned by The Kennedy Center to be created, from the beginning, as a Sensory Friendly experience. Dan and Claudia believe that Sensory Friendly is the future of family entertainment and have committed to presenting all of their various performances in this inclusive manner. The soundtrack to the show is now available digitally and on CD.
Also in 2017, Dan released Lead Belly, Baby! on the Smithsonian/Folkways label, an album which celebrates the children’s music of his childhood inspiration Lead Belly – an artist he considers to be the Godfather of modern family music. In addition to Night Train performances, Dan, Claudia, and Pauline Jean will be singing songs from the Lead Belly, Baby! album as well as all of the hits.
In between tours, Zanes teaches guitar and ukulele on Sonic Junction, the leader in online instructional videos, has recently completed writing the songbook Dan Zanes’ House Party! A Family Roots Music Treasury for the Quarto Publishing Group, and listens obsessively to Haitian music.