Born in Angola in 1960 of Portuguese descent, Victor Gama is a composer, designer, sound artist and electronics engineer. He studied the kissange (Angolan thumb piano), the hungo (Angolan musical bow) and trained as a guitarist at the Lisbon Music Academy. He graduated in electronics engineering in the area of Digital Signal Processing from the Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa and pursued an early career in research and development having worked in research centres and companies in Portugal and Austria.
Pursuing his career in music Gama initiated the Pangeia Instrumentos project in the early 1990s. The Pangeia Instrumentos are acoustic musical instruments, sound devices and installations designed and built through a process of experimentation with design, sound and music. Gama experiments with the phenomenon of metamorphosis and evolution of musical instruments that span the period from pre-history to today. This phenomenon suggests that form is a variable in the composition process and is intrinsically related to the player’s inner creative impulses and his closest material environment.
As Gama writes, ´When the construction of the instrument is introduced into the writing process, new elements are added and become part of the piece being composed: form, configuration, the properties of the materials, sound, playing technique as well as performance and movement. In Pangeia Instrumentos, the notion of object is used as a form of writing. Thus, the exercise of “giving form” or “writing through form” becomes central to the composition work´. Through this process Gama has created collective instruments that can be played by two or more musicians, suggesting a game of dialogue and sharing.
In 1998 he was commissioned by the Prince Claus Fund to write the music for the video operetta Sounds of Amnesia – Zinganheca Kutzinga, with Cuban soprano singer Yetzabel Arias Fernandez, clarinetist Mahe Marty and Sowetan flautist Stompy.
In 2000 Gama founded PangeiArt – Associação Cultural, a transnational non-profit cultural association working in the area of culture and development through music and other interdisciplinary performing arts projects. PangeiArt aims to promote innovative cultural initiatives such as exchanges, recordings of threatened musical repertoires and instruments, and the production of high quality publications and recordings that contribute to renewed cultural identity, diversity and development.
He recorded the Pangeia Instrumentos album in 2000 on a commission by the Portuguese Performing Arts Council and three years later licensed the album to Rephlex Records, London which has since given it worldwide distribution and exposure.
In 2001 he was commissioned by the Instituto Camões of Portugal to write the music for his geo-fiction Oceanites Erraticus. The work was released on CD and is dedicated to a fuller exploration of his more than 20 years work on acoustic 12 string out-tuned guitar and a collaboration with several musicians and the photographic artist Francisco Gama.
In 2002 he produced the exchange project Odantalan in Luanda, Angola, sponsored by the Prince Claus Fund. Participating musicians, art historians and anthropologists were invited from Cuba, Colombia, Brazil and Angola. This meeting focussed on philosophical values of the ancient Kongo/Angola civilisation and the results were published in a book and on CD (Odantalan.02).
Gama initiated the Tsikaya project in Angola in 2003, a partnership between his organisation PangeiArt and the Angolan Cultural Association Bismas to recover the musical heritage in those areas most affected by the thirty year long conflict. The project aims to create the first organised musical archive ever in the country and stimulate productive cultural economies in the rural areas benefiting the composers and their families.
Gama´s music has been presented solo and with the Pangeia Instrumentos Group, along with exhibitions of his instruments in major international centres like CCB in Portugal, Rasa in Holland, SESC – São Carlos in Brazil, UEM in Mozambique, the NCPM in Sheffield and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Additionally, he has done extensive field recordings for several of his projects in Angola, Cuba, Colombia, South Africa, Namibia and Brazil.
His work and projects have been sponsored by The Prince Claus Fund, The Gulbenkian Foundation (UK), Instituto Camões, The Portuguese Performing Arts Council, CNCDP/Portuguese Council of Ministers, Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, and Visiting Arts.
In January 2005, Gama takes up a residency at the HUB Centre for Craft, Design and Making in Sleaford, UK. It will involve workshops with schools, performances and working on instruments in cooperation with local manufacturing companies.
Odantalan.02, published by Pangeiart, 2002: 128 pages, full colour book with contributions by Daniel Dawson, Bunzeki Fu Kiau, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Ana Arango and Victor Gama.
Instrumentos Pangeia – Reconstruccionismo Permanente, published by CNCDP, 2000: Catalogue of Pangeia Instrumentos with contributions by Romero Magalhães, Armandina Maia, Salwa Castelo-Branco, Amandla Pratiba, Inge Ruigrok and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz
Music for Dance & Video
Mostra Paperi di Fotu, choreography by António Tavares, 1995
Clan-Destinos, dance video by Nuno Rikou, 1996
Zinganheca Kutzinga, a documentary by Sussuta Boe, 1998
Ylunga, by Miguel Petchkowsky, 1999
Sobretudo, choreography by António Tavares, 2001
Exploratory Music from Portugal 2003
Exploratory Music from Portugal 2002
by Caloust Gulbenkian Foundation, distr. SongLines, 2002
Exploratory Music from Portugal 2001
by Caloust Gulbenkian Foundation, distr. The Wire, 2001
A Máquina de Visão, Future Music, 1995
CDs & Recordings
Pangeia Instrumentos (worldwide release), Rephlex, 2003
Odantalan.02, (various artists) Pangeiart, 2002
Oceanites Erraticus, PangeiArt, 2001
Pangeia Instrumentos, PangeiArt, 2000
Sounds of Amnesia, SSB, 1998
Cuito Cuanavale - Burry Your Guns and Dance, 1997
Kissange – BYG D, 1996
Zuca – BYG D, 1995
Tsui – BYG D, 1995
Huyra e Coma –BYG D,1995
A barca de Caronte - BYG D 1993
Selected Concerts & Performances
Production / Performance,
2004 State X New Forms, The Hague
2004 Rock in Rio Lisbon
2004 Visonic Audiovisual Festival, Belfast
2003 Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, UK
2003 8th Havana Bienal, Cuba, (performance category)
2002 Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) London, UK
2002 National Centre for Popular Music, Sheffield, UK
2001 Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon
2001 SESC São Carlos, São Paulo
2001 RASA world music centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands
2000 Centro Cultural Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique
1999 Mãe d’Agua, Lisbon
1998 Espaço OIKOS, Lisbon
Solo Exhibitions / Installations
Exhibition / Installation,
2004 Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast
2003 8th Havana Bienal, Cuba
2002 Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, UK
2000 MuSod, Museum Sound Device - site specific installation. Royal Tropical Museum, Amsterdam
2000 Centro Cultural Português, Maputo, Mozambique
1999 Centro Cultural da Guarda, Portugal
1999 Instituto da Juventude de Lisboa, Portugal
1999 Resrvatório da Mãe d’Agua - EPAL, Lisbon
1998 Espaço OIKOS, Lisbon