June 23 2011: Monkey Magic by Godiego (BBC Records, 1980)
Cheating slightly? It’s not a recent find, by any means, but the second version of the Monkey theme released by the BBC (an earlier one featured a different b-side, an extended intro and no picture sleeve: this is the punchier issue that gets right down to the main theme) is relevant as I’ve spent most of the day finishing and sourcing audio-visual material for Decoding Monkey tomorrow evening. This will (I can confirm) include discussion of the story’s origins, possible connections to the Hindu deity Hanuman, some notes on the contemporary artist as Trickster in China, the novel’s author and translator, the real-life Tripitaka (a monk named Xuanzang, who wrote an autobiography in the 6th Century that was almost certainly used by Wu Ch’eng-En when writing Journey To The West in the 1590s) and much else besides, all interspersed with excerpts from two 1960s animated versions of the story made in Japan and Hong Kong, trailers for Enter The Dragon (1973) and A Chinese Odyssey (1995) and some late sixties clips of The Spiders, featuring Masaaki Sakai. It’s especially good to be doing this with Ai Wei Wei released, since if any artist fulfils the role of Trickster in relation to the present authorities then perhaps it’s him. As the cultural and historic template for many such figures, including the novel’s author, Monkey has a role to play even in the 21st century.