Interview with Edmar Castañeda: “Music gives new colour to life”

25. April 2014
Jorge Poveda

The interview with the unique and fabulous Colombian harpist was in our mother tongue, Spanish. I got very interesting impressions of his music and life in Colombia. Edmar Castañeda has new exciting challenges for the next future. Everything in his life is thanks to Jesus Christ.

What were your first steps in music? Who and what are your principal influences?

Well, I started in the music world when I was 7 years old with the Colombian traditional Llanera music and dancing Joropo and playing maracas. The principal instrument for this music is the harp, so when I was 13 years old I started to study the harp with a friend, and from this time I decided to follow my own career. At 16 I started to get into jazz and I moved to New York to study trumpet.

Colombia is a source of big artists. How was the reception when you go back to your country after moving to New York?

Well, it has been like that and it was a change for the instrument of my country. It’s an input for the harpists in Colombia because I developed my own style mixing traditional Colombian music with jazz.

Was your father important in your initiations as artist? I know he was a harpist, composer, singer, music teacher… Did he help you somehow?

Well, we never lived together. He was an inspiration for my life; I had lessons with him of music bases and quartets. But with the harp, we started at the same time so I just follow my own path with it.

Do you think that you have exceeded his level as a musician? The new generation exceeds the previous one…

It’s not about exceeding. We are from different generations so we are not here to exceed, we are here for success and achieve. Learning is the most important thing for a musician.

You have shared scenery with musicians as John Scofield, Paquito D’Rivera, Wynton Marshalls, John Patitucci, Simon Diaz, Marcus Miller, and Lila Downs. Which collaboration was the most special in all these years?

Well, each time that you have the opportunity to play with some of these jazz artists, with these amazing people, they are always special. You always learn and share something. It’s very difficult to just pick one.

Do you have new challenges in mind for the future? With whom would you like to share scenery or studio?

I would like to play with Chick Corea (American jazz and fusion composer, pianist and keyboard player).

The harp is a millenary instrument, dated first in Sumeria 3500 BC, one of the most ancient historically. Do you consider that it keeps the same essence or has it evolved with the centuries?

Yes, it is one of the most ancient ones and there was an age when it was very popular, especially in the Middle Age. But nowadays it is not that popular so one of my missions is to show another side of the instrument to the audience, you can groove [laughs]. You can do many thing with the harp, its and amazing instrument.

Do you have a concrete plan when you compose your music or do you let it flow?

It flows, it can happen on the stage, improvisation… There is not a plan or schedule; it can happen wherever and every time. On the streets, on the studio and on the stage you can have good ideas and inspiration. It is very organic.

The spirituality and God is very important in your music. How can you define these feelings when creating music?

Yes, the spirituality and Jesus Christ is the centre of everything I do in my life. He is just my inspiration.

Did you like the experience to take part in Jazzkaar? How is the Estonian audience in your opinion?

Of course, it is the first time that I am playing here and it was a pleasure. And the Estonian audience is very chevere, bacano, tremendo (Colombian expressions for cool, awesome, amazing). It was a very special feeling and the festival is very well organized.