A few weeks ago my friend and fellow music therapist Claudia Eliaza posted on Facebook about the release of a new book, a collaboration with her husband and long time kid celebrity Dan Zanes. The book entitled Dan Zanes' House Party: A Family Roots Music Treasury is just as the description boasts, a music treasure of carefully curated songs that can be sung by families all over the world. I was so excited to receive this book all the way in Querétaro, México where I am always looking for fun songs to play with my tri-cultural babies. I am so happy to own this book, I share it with all of you!
All Cultures Welcome. I must admit, when I opened the book I went straight to find the songs in Spanish, which is our primary culture. I was ecstatic to see songs that I grew up singing like "Pollito Chicken" but also songs that I use in sessions with Latino children like "Cho-Co-La-Te" and others I had never heard of like "El Botellón". I was happy to see my children's and my culture reflected in a book about making music as a family. I validated my feelings of wanting to engage my children in making music that is rich and complex, while also based on their heritage.
This book includes songs from around the world, proving once more that music is the unifying force we all need. There are songs from North America, the Caribbean, Africa and more. I have been happily singing songs from Shennandoah to South Africa. For those of us that are about to explode if we sing "The Wheels of the Bus" one more time, this book is a breath of fresh creativity air. It expands my children ears and minds while it makes me grow in knowledge about the artists, songs and rich musical culture around the world. We can sing songs about the Erie Canal and remind them of it when we go visit grandpa in PA.
More than just a cancionero. When I started playing through the book I realized that this book is actually part songbook (cancionero), part history lesson and part interactive musical scavenger hunt! For example, when you land on a song it not only gives you the notation and chords for how to play it, but it includes background on the song or artist or country of origin. It also provides additional resources for learning more about the context of the song and listening to other songs in the same genre.
A family band set-list. This book is really a perfect repertoire for starting that family band you have been dreaming of. If you're like me, you play some instrument, have some kids running around the house and your dream is to one day unify them all into one big instagrammy family band. Not just because it sounds cool and will give you instant fame in the neighborhood as the cool family, but because you know its the most beautiful and effective way to bond with your children that will age as well as you will.
Making music as a family sets everyone up for success:
1. It allows children and parents to bond outside of the traditional parent-kid roles: Music blurs the age lines and you are just making music together; even when they are 3 and you are 35 or you are 75 and they are 43!
2. It engages children in a safe, nurturing activity that allows them to practice skills for lifelong success: i.e. listening skills, turn taking, nonverbal cue reading, multitasking, task-switching...all sorts of cognitive-social skills.
3. It is FUN for everyone: they will want to learn and play with you for years to come. I have seen this first-hand among the families that are lucky enough to have played together since the beginning.
So in summary, I can wholeheartedly recommend Dan Zanes' House Party as a music therapist, mom, and supporter of family music making! This book will provide an amazing starting ground if you have never played music with your kids, or if you already play, it can expand your repertoire into more original pieces. Surely, this book will be in my family for years to come; I hope that in the future my children remember it fondly as the songs that helped them develop their love for music and eventually they will continue to sing it with their kids and grandkids. Because that is the beauty of the family band, it outlives you and the songs become a part of your children's story.
Happy music making friends!!
Director, Latin American Music Therapy Network