Gede Manik

Gede (or Gde) Manik (1912-1984) helped give shape to the gamelan gong kebyar style in Bali. Known for his energetic drumming style and extensive improvisations, he embellished and modified the classic kebyar work, Kebyar Legong, composed by his teacher Pan Wandres around 1920, to create Taruna (or Teruna) Jaya.

The process of modification took many years, until the late 1940s or early 1950s. The fame of Taruna Jaya spread throughout Bali over the following decade; gamelan clubs needed to master the piece in order to confirm that they had “made it” as a legitimate kebyar club. The choreography of Taruna Jaya drew many elements from the kebyar bebancihan works of the 1940s, which highlighted the interplay of male and female elements.

Since it developed out north Bali’s Kebyar Legong dance, it also fused elements of kebyar with the courtly, more restrained legong. With its frenetic chain of melodies, tempi and textures, Taruna Jaya is considered a quintessential kebyar dance composition. During the 1950s, Manik shortened it from 55 to about 16 minutes, apparently to conform to President Sukarno’s request for more compact and digestible works for domestic and tourist consumption.

Despite his many other accomplishments, Gede Manik will always be remembered primarily for this piece. Born in Jagaraga in north Bali, Manik was in one of the crucibles of kebyar innovation. His village and near-by Bungkulan (among others) set off the kebyar craze in 1914-15, and remained fiercely competitive for decades. The north Bali style was considered wild and violent, with musicians “hurling” themselves at their instruments. As the style drifted southward, musicians added sensibilities derived from the more refined court genres. After 1949, when the district capital of Bali moved from north Bali (Singaraja) to south Bali (Denpasar), the center of kebyar innovation shifted south as well.

I Gede Manik had always been a zealous proponent and teacher of the style, but after World War II he further fraternized with many southern clubs. His influence with southern musicians (Wayan Beratha among others) in the 1950s may have inadvertently completed the transition of artistic authority from the north to the south.