Edmar Castañeda plays the arpa llanera, a traditional folkloric instrument from Columbia and Venezuela. Classical harps have 46 or 47 strings, but the smaller llanera has only 32. That makes it lighter, swifter and somehow more versatile…at least it sounds like it in the hands of this master from Bogotá.
Edmar comes from a musical family, and at age 7 started folkloric dance classes along with his sister. The thing he liked best about the classes was the music, and the harp in particular. “As soon as I heard it, I knew I was born to play the harp!” he says. When he was 13, he was given an instrument by his aunt, after constantly asking her to let him come over and play hers. He’s been playing harp ever since.
When he moved to New York in the 1990s, he delighted in the multi-cultural blend of music he found there. He studied trumpet and discovered jazz, and then decided to make his harp an instrument of exploration: mixing jazz and music from around the world.
When I asked him if the llanera requires any special care or maintenance, he laughed. “Just play it! The harp gets sad if you don’t play it. If you play it all the time, it knows you love it.”
Castañeda has also designed a harp that’s being produced by the French harp builder, Camac. He’s proud of the finished product and the innovations that have been adopted to the traditional arpa llanera.
Edmar will be playing solo for his first appearance in Seattle, showcasing his original music with influences from Columbia, Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and New York. The concert is Friday October 16 at the PONCHO Concert Hall at Cornish College of the Arts. It’s part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.
Listen for Edmar Casteñeda’s music on Jazz Caliente this week, Thursday afternoon at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!