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JOURNEY TO THE WEST, an album conceived and created by Damon Albarn (music) & Jamie Hewlett (visuals) under the guise of MONKEY, is performed by an assortment of European and Chinese musicians and singers and was produced by Albarn. Similarly, the Hewlett’s album artwork moves beyond his stunning design work on the opera MONKEY: JOURNEY TO THE WEST and exploring to the fullest its characters, storylines, themes and inspirations.
MONKEY: JOURNEY TO THE WEST, the opera upon which the album is based, made its London Premiere July 23 at the Royal Opera House. A singular and unique fusion of traditional Mandarin opera/folklore and modern audiovisual interpretation, MONKEYŠis the result of director Chen Shi-Zheng having enlisted GORILLAZ masterminds Albarn and Hewlett to provide unique, modern musical and visual interpretations of the themes and characters of this most beloved work of Chinese folklore. The live production utilizes nearly 40 Chinese circus acrobats, martial artists and singers from China and an orchestra of Western and traditional Chinese instruments.
MONKEY: JOURNEY TO THE WEST is performed in Mandarin with subtitles, its storyline chronicling the Monkey King’s journey to enlightenment as it takes him undersea, to decadent banquets in heaven, through encounters with Spider Maidens and Skeleton Demons, and eventually to paradise. The album, which was recorded in London and Beijing over the last year, follows this narrative, opening with “Monkey’s World,” proceeding to a “Heavenly Peach Banquet,” enduring a “Battle In Heaven,” encountering “The White Skeleton Demon” and so on, all the way through to the finale’ of “Disappearing Volcano.”