pavelid castaneda florez
■ I N S T R U M E NTALI S T S : H O W LO C AL M U S I C IAN S G E T TH E I R S O U N D S
PAVELID CASTANEDA FLOREZ
LOCATION: Chapel Hill
KNOWN FOR: electrified sound, precision, innovation and
his solo arrangements of Santana.
MEMBERSHIPS: Castaneda Family Musical Quintet, Agua
Viva (church-based group), music director at St. Thomas
More Catholic Church, substitute music teacher for the
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
HARP INFLUENCES: “I like harpists that play and think
differently in respect to the instrument: Hugo Blanco, Carlos
Rojas, Roberto Perera, Alfredo Rolando Ortiz, Nicolas
Caballero and especially my son, Edmar Castaneda.”
ALSO PLAYS: piano, accordion, llanera cuatro, electric bass
SEE HIM: June 13, The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, on a double
bill with his son, trailblazing jazz harpist Edmar Castaneda.
Pavelid also plays Cary’s Umstead Hotel Wednesdays and
Saturdays, 2:30–4:30 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
TECHNIQUE: “By playing the melody with my right hand,
and bass and guitar accompaniment with my left, I can get
a trio sound with just the harp. This is a technique I began
developing in 1992 when I came to the USA. I couldn’t
afford strings for my harp back then, so I used fishing line.”
SHAPE/ STYLE: Gothic/ Celtic. The custom green to represent environmentalism was
Edmar’s idea: “Think green, play green,” he says. Automotive paint finish cleans easily
and resists scratching.
SHARPING LEVERS: Developed by Camac, these levers
are used to produce precise sharps and flats and to
change key signatures without retuning the harp. By
comparison, classical harps use pedals, and folk harpists
place their thumbnail at the top of a string to produce
sharps and flats.
TUNING PEGS: Strings are tuned by turning these pegs (opposite the sharping levers)
with a special wrench-like key.
Folk Harp vs. Classical Harp
“Harps can be used to play any
music, not just ‘angel’s music.’ South
American harp playing is more
than just three notes followed by a
bunch of glissandos and arpeggios
on an instrument decorated with
Renaissance designs. Harp players in
South America invest more in feelings
than in gold leaf. We play with
passion, soul and fire on our fingers.”
MATERIAL: Maple. The high-density
wood has a great electrified sound,
but the harp is relatively heavy at 27
lbs. Like an electric guitar, there is no
soundbox, which would normally
lean against the harpist’s shoulder.
CUSTOM CAMAC ELECTROHARP: Made in France by
Camac, a leading maker of electric harps, endorsed by
Pavelid’s son Edmar Castaneda. This instrument was custom-made with several features the Castanedas suggested
to the company as improvements on this already existing
electroharp model. The Castanedas, for instance, suggested
the addition of a second channel to equalize the bass and
treble registers separately. The harp is worth 7,000€, or
more than $8,400, but Pavelid bought it from Camac for
around 4,000€, or $4,800.
Camac is developing a different llanera folk harp model
that will carry Edmar’s name. “I used to play on a traditional
Colombian llanera folk harp, but harps are difficult to
amplify, so I decided to switch to an electric harp, which
permits me to play the way I like,” Pavelid says.
CUSTOM HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT: Telescoping bottom leg
(similar to a cello) was added for Pavelid to adjust the proper
playing height when sitting down.
Text and interview by Sylvia Pfeiffenberger;
photos by Jeremy M. Lange; Design by J.P. Trostle
STRINGS: 36 nylon/ metal strings,
four more strings than an acoustic
folk harp, tuned diatonically in five
octaves ranging from F to F. Each
string has its own internal pickup
microphone. The electroharp’s
higher string tension and wider
spacing match that of a classical harp,
requiring a change of technique
when moving to this instrument from
VINTAGE AMPLIFIER: Small but
powerful Fishman two-channel amp,
designed for acoustic instruments.
“The amp has to be an acoustic amp
to keep the harp sound. Not too