The death of Bapak I Wayan Gandra on September 11, 2002 leaves the island of Bali minus one of its most talented and extraordinary artists.
The only son of I Made Lebah, the legendary composer and performer spent his formative years in Sayan, sharing the stimulating environment of Colin McPhee's "A House in Bali."
Already an accomplished musician and dancer in his teens, Gandra was chosen to teach the first Indonesian music courses offered in the U.S.A, at UCLA in 1960 - 1962.
Upon his return from the States, he put his energies into performing and composition. Settling into father's gamelan group, the Gunung Sari Peliatan Gong, he created numerous compositions for the gong, including his famous rendition of the Indonesian melody "Gambang Suling."
Drama Gong remained Gandra's favorite genres of performance. Not only an active musician, he would also design stage sets as well as execute paintings, usually depicting scenes from the Wayang.
During the exciting period of the late 60's into the 70's – all the very first western practitioners of Balinese music seemed to gravitate towards Gandra. Sam Scrips, Bob Brown, Andy Toth, Michael Tenzer, Ruby Ornstein and Douglas Myer are a few of the students he profoundly influenced. His extraordinary energy drove the beginnings of Balinese gamelan performance on two continents. The Australian press referred to his performances as "Gandra Magic".
During the mid 70's Gandra's compositional skills developed to their utmost, often in demand by local groups to teach them "kreasi baru." These were new compositions which changed the way in which Balinese musicians saw the boundaries of their music. His compositions were clear cut and perfectly groomed.
With his Peliatan Gong he toured much of the world including the United States, Australia and Europe but it is in Bali, his beloved homeland, that he will be most missed. His contribution to the musical life of Bali continued to the moment of his death.
In the word of one of his former students, Douglas Meyers: "As a man who gave so much to so many, Gandra lives on in so many ways. As his student and friend I can say that what he has given me lives while ever I do. The only thing I can say to my teacher is Thank You."
balidiscovery.com wishes to thank Douglass Meyers of the Yayasan Polosseni and archipelago e-mag for contributing materials for this article.
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