!NUEVA YORK! Dan Zanes and Friends, United States
by: Carlos Reyes
Dan Zanes latest album is not only in Spanish, it's an outside examination of the culture and its music having New York as its center point. It is no surprise to witness Anglo artists entering the profitable Spanish-language music industry; mostly with translations of their hits or opportunistic full albums. What separates Dan Zanes from the others (Backstreet Boys, Madonna, and Beyonce) is that water-clear honesty reflected on this high profile collection of songs performed with admiration and respect.
The album has been tagged as a “pro-immigration” album, luckily it prevents itself from becoming a pretentious project. New York City is a land of immigrants; it would have been unfeasible to skip the political messages already imposed in the classic pieces. Dan Zanes doesn’t seem to struggle much in the pronunciations making the album much more attractive. However, it will be intriguing to monitor the album’s sensitivity and eventual transcendence in Latin America. They might be selling it as a world children’s album, but Latinos will most probably embrace it as a folk traditional album.
!Nueva York! is also a great encounter of New York-based acts such as the Villa-Lobos Brothers, Marc Ribot and La Cumbiamba Eneye. The song “La Bruja” features folk goddess Lila Downs, probably the biggest inspiration and influence of the overall approach. First single “Colas” is a fun traditional Jarocho song that combines the regional sound of Veracruz and its branches in the Caribbean. This is a work of research and they have done their homework. We can assume that much of the success of capturing the culture grounds from the new member of his band, Mexican musician Maria de los Santos.
What’s special about this album is the fact that the album wasn’t manufactured for young audiences trying to learn about the Latino culture. It’s simply a celebration towards the roots music of the Americas glanced from an outside view that doesn’t feel that foreign after all. The educational albums irritate many of us, but Dan Zanes and La Bruja posses the necessary charm to make “Pollito Chicken” a great Spanish-English learning session. For those waiting for second volumes from Putumayo Kids let’s not wait; !Nueva York! is a truly fascinating album within its specialty. It's flawed only because it's not radical enough for the experimental hungry buffs like me.
Key Tracks: "La Piragua", "Colas" and "La Bruja."