Victor Gama: exploring musical terra incognita with unique instruments
August 22, 2014 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Victor Gama is a self-taught composer and musician who has expanded his process of composing music for himself and others to perform into creating new or modified instruments, and is also involved with traveling to hard to access regions of Angola and recording local music, as documented on his website Tsikaya: Músicos do Interior. You can read an outstanding interview of Victor with Ned Sublette for Afropop, or read more on his creation of instruments as part of his creative process, or you can experience his performances on YouTube and his music on Soundcloud.

Over the years, Victor Gama has released three primary albums, and a number of projects and collaborations. The first of his albums, Oceanites Erraticus, is labeled by Gama as "a space journey to the island of Aisa Tanaf on the Eguanalan planet," with a soundtrack composed almost entirely of 12 string guitar using alternative tunings and various types of preparations. Sample tracks: Mundo De Aventura, O Sonho Perdido De Tchombé (Soundcloud), Os Senhores de Odem, Si Mis Amigos (MySpace).

His second album, Pangeia Instrumentos (11 of 12 tracks on Grooveshark), is a collection of compositions specifically written for instruments of his own design, released oddly enough on Aphex Twin's Rephlex Records, with the honor of being the first album to feature no electronic instruments or compositions of any sort, but still fitting into the general instrumental and cerebral sonic realms of Rephlex. In a review on Spannered, the reviewer wrote
The sound of instruments so fresh to ears constantly assaulted by all the sounds a modern studio can create was a joy: melodies pitched somewhere between a lullaby, folk songs and devotional music immerse the listener in a warm space that at once refreshes and stimulates the mind.

Without a doubt one of the most groundbreaking releases on Rephlex in quite a time, Pangeia Instrumentos is inspiring, beautiful and rewarding.
His latest album is Naloga (full album stream on Soundcloud), the result of 10 years of field recordings, interviews and research in Angola, South Africa, Namibia and Cuba. The result is his most ambitious project, which Ned Sublette said could be "inadequately [described] as a sonic exploration of the legacy of Angola's long war."

As with his recorded pieces, Victor Gama's projects and performances often feature instruments he has created, which he has written about and documented on the website Pangeia Instrumentos. Gama has put on Pangeia Kids workshops, which are designed to teach children how to build and play their own musical instruments in Colombia, and his Instrumentos installations are interactive art shows, featuring a number of his instruments.

From his trips to Angola, here is Grupo Katiavala do Bailundo and the duo of Alimba Okimbo, two singer-songwriter guitarrists from Huambo, a city in the center of Angola, part of the Tsikaya - Músicos do Interior project.

In live settings, Gama has played with William Parker and Guillermo E. Brown, and scored a short documentary, Journey to the Last Frontier, with a piece he titled Vela 6911 (second movement, third movement, fourth movement), based on (PDF) the diary of a South African Navy officer, lieutenant Lindsey Rooke, who took part in a secret atmospheric nuclear weapons test conducted in 1979 off the coast of Antarctica.

With SOL(t)O (52:55), Victor Gama worked alone to present some of his unique Pangeia Instrumentos in compositions he created for the instruments, as part of Festival of DIGITAL ARTS “Olhares de Outono” in 2007.

In 2010, Gama presented a multi-media solo show (64:37) at the Stanford Arts Institute during his residence at the university during fall quarter 2010. You can also download some podcasts from SAI's page via iTunes.

Two years ago, Gama took part in Royal Opera Hall's Deloitte Ignite 2012, as captured in this five minute audience-recorded video, and described with glowing praise in The Guardian:
... the event's most impressive and resonant mix of sound, vision and concept was Instrumentos, an exhibition/performance in the beautiful Paul Hamlyn Hall by Angola-born inventor and musician Victor Gama. Each instrument is a beautiful object; each implies a different audio-visual journey that's both ethnic and high tech.
Gama and other musicians debuted 3thousandRIVERS: prelude at the 2013 Prince Claus Awards Ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
The work is the prelude to a much larger multimedia 'opera', told through the stories of people living in the rain forest. The piece is based on fieldwork currently in progress in the rain forests of Amazonia, El Choco and the Andes in Colombia and Brazil. It addresses the destruction of that particular environment as well as the beauty of its nature and the lives of its inhabitants. The prelude was performed by the Oophaga Ensemble and soprano singers Yetzabel Arias Fernandez and Té Macedo, under the direction of Victor Gama who also played toha with harpist Salomé Pais Matos.
As stated on his page of project, "while the prelude made use of the material gathered during the first phase of research in El Chocó, Colombia, the current project aims at producing and presenting the complete work resulting from the next two phases of research in the Andes and Amazonia." He has more information and images in this 12 page PDF.
posted by filthy light thief (3 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
This is marvellous: thanks!
posted by mikelynch at 1:19 AM on August 23, 2014

Thanks for posting. Unusual and one-off musical instruments is a favourite topic of mine.
posted by misterbee at 2:08 AM on August 23, 2014

good god, this is going to take a while to work through. Thanks for posting this.
posted by jonbro at 7:18 PM on August 24, 2014

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