Family musician Dan Zanes and one of his band members — Sonia de los Santos — will play at the Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington on Sunday, and they’re inviting families to bring instruments and take a turn onstage with them.
Zanes, 54, of Brooklyn, says that performing with just one other musician leaves plenty of room on stage for audience participation. “It’s less of a performance and more of a neighborhood gathering,” he says. He and de los Santos will perform some songs in English and Spanish.
Zanes has led the larger Dan Zanes and Friends band since he started playing family music in the mid 1990s, and he’s always been about multiculturalism. Zanes talks with Newsday about why — and, of course, about his signature wild hair.
Q. You’re the only white guy in the Dan Zanes and Friends band, which primarily includes guitarist and mandolin player de los Santos, who is Mexican; fiddler and trumpet player Elena Moon Park, who is Korean-American; drummer Collin Brooks, who is African-American, and bass player Yoshi Waki, who is Japanese.
A. It does turn out that way sometimes, yeah. If I were to go out there with a group of white men, I think the message is pretty much “this is a white man’s thing” — I think that’s the subliminal message behind that. I wanted to be a part of multicultural living. Multicultural living is the best. The food’s better, the conversation’s better, you learn more. The music is better. It’s a much, much richer experience. I thought it would be something that would be good for our audience, but I didn’t realize how good it would be for me.
Q. Is there a musician who inspires you?
A. I grew up in New Hampshire. I got a library card when I was 8 and I went down to the library. I saw a Lead Belly record and he was playing guitar and I was fascinated by the picture. He’s been my main inspiration throughout my life. [Huddie William Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly, was an African-American folk and blues musician who died in 1949.]
Q. What can people expect at your show Sunday?
A. The show is very interactive. It’s really more of a party than anything else.
Q. You know you can’t get through an interview without talking about your hair.
A. I’m happy to have hair. I definitely don’t comb it, and I cut it myself. I’ve had kind of extreme hair for so long that if it’s not sort of pushed up and shooting in all directions, it looks like the top of my head is chopped off. Now it’s like the weather. You know how sometimes you meet people and you start talking about the weather, and that’s a way to kind of get warmed up for a conversation? It’s a way to get into socializing. Sometimes hair is good for that, too.