Lionel Loueke, Ferenc Nemeth and I met at Berklee College of Music in 1999 and in 2001 all three of us where chosen to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles. There, we spent the days playing together with the Monk ensemble, but there was a special musical chemistry between the three of us so we would stay back late and practice our music ideas. At first we started deconstructing, dissecting and reimagining jazz standards, incorporating odd-meter grooves and african rhythms, which later expanded to original compositions written specifically for the trio and inspired by the work we had done together. In 2000 we took part in a music competition in Brussels. Needing a name for the band, we combined letters from our names - Gil (Gilles is Lionel's middle name) + Fe (Ferenc) + Ma (Massimo) - and thus, Gilfema was born.
Upon graduating from the Monk Institute we all moved to New York and we continued playing together and writing new music. In 2003 we met Michele Locatelli from the label ObliqSound, who produced our first self-titled recording.