b. Angola. Often recalling the work of American minimalist composer Steve Reich, Gama’s fascinating and beautiful music is inspired by the belief that as a consequence of migration and nomadism, traditional African instruments have had to adapt throughout history while simultaneously retaining their traditional sound and identity.
Born in Angola of Portuguese origin, Gama interest in the traditional instruments of his birthplace led to him learning the kissange (or thumb piano), the hungo (a musical bow) alongside studying the 12-string guitar. In the early 90s, having completed an engineering degree in electronics and communications and having worked in the area of digital signal processing, he began constructing his Pangeia Instrumentos, a range of contemporary instruments designed and built from traditional materials including wood, metal and found objects. Frequently sculptural, beautiful and strange, these instruments juxtapose the modern and the ancient and, as if to stress the importance of dialogue and sharing, can often be played by two people at the same time. These self-made instruments include one inspired by a kalimba. Although the kalimba is traditionally made from a board box or calabash, Gama constructed his own from a discarded Angolan soldier’s helmet. Such actions add an extra potency to Gama’s already moving music and imply a further political context to his sonic creations.
Gama is part of PangeiArt, a trans-national non-profit cultural association of musicians, artists, academics and people, that produces cultural exchange projects based on creative processes in Africa, South America and the Caribbean countries. In both group and solo contexts, Gama has presented his music exhibited his instruments and sound installations internationally and he has made extensive field recordings for several projects in Angola, Cuba, Colombia, South Africa, Namibia and Brazil. Gama’s Pangeia Instrumentos was licensed by PangeiArt for release in the UK via Rephlex Records, the label co-run by Richard D. James aka the Aphex Twin. Unusually for the label, the recording eschewed electronic interventions but nevertheless Pangeia Instrumentos sat comfortably alongside releases by label luminaries such as Leila, Pierre Bastien and James himself. Late in 2003, an exhibition of Gama’s instruments in London was opened by ambient DJ sets from Rephlex artists.