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Are there any arpas llaneras in the southeast Michigan area?

If you travel by air enough, eventually you’ll show up at your destination but your bags won’t.  When this has happened to me, my missing luggage has eventually shown up, but it’s never fun. The pressure is worse when the missing luggage is your instrument and you have a performance that night.

Two years ago, I went to the airport to pick up Lila Downs and her band.  All of the band members arrived, but one of them, Edmar Castañeda, was missing his arpa llanera or Colombian folk harp.

I wasn’t aware of anywhere in Ann Arbor to borrow or rent an arpa llanera, so I left Edmar and the tour manager at the airport. They tracked down the harp while I drove the rest of the group to Ann Arbor for their sound check.

Fortunately the harp was found in time for the concert. The harp sound along with Edmar’s unique approach to the instrument added a great touch to Lila’s music. I spoke with other UMS staff members after the concert who also marveled at Edmar’s harp playing. I was even more impressed when, after the concert, Edmar told me he had only been playing with Lila’s band for a short time. If I remember correctly it was only a couple weeks.

I have been looking out for Edmar’s music ever since.  I saw this video on NPR’s website and wanted to share it with you. It showcases an artist who was not  the main attraction, but added significantly to the quality of a UMS performance. On the video, you’ll hear Edmar’s novel technique through the mix of traditional Colombian dance music (joropo music) with jazz and Afro-Cuban music.

Do you remember this concert? Are there any arpas llaneras in the southeast Michigan area?