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Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 12:02 UK
From Gorillaz to Monkey: The album

By Kev Geoghegan
Radio 1 music reporter

Damon Albarn has admitted it was a real challenge to write his first ever opera, Monkey: Journey To The West.

Monkey: Journey To The West
The Monkey characters are being used during the 2008 Olympics, held in China

Performed entirely in Mandarin, the show opened in the Royal Opera House in London last month.

Albarn told Radio 1's Zane Lowe that he had come up against some opposition from traditional opera lovers.

He said: "There are the people who just sort of avoid you as you're walking around backstage and sort of avert their eyes.

"They're the ones who don't really want you there but I understand."

Now, Albarn and co-creator and Gorillaz bandmate Jamie Hewlett are releasing an album based on the show.

Recorded over the past 12 months in London and Beijing under the name Monkey, it will come out on 18 August.

Probably not one for mainstream music fans or people expecting another Gorillaz pop album. The tracks are basically traditional sounding Chinese songs with Gorillaz-style beats and production.

Albarn said: "I've tried to make the record something different from the show that was on the Royal Opera House.
Damon Albarn
(l-r) Jamie Hewlett, Monkey director Chen Shi-Zheng and Damon Albarn

"I didn't want it to be a series of segments or songs but rather one long listen."

Like the show, the songs on the album have all been recorded in Mandarin.

Albarn said: " I don't necessarily need to understand what people are singing, I kind of like not knowing.

"It suggests other things to me."

The opera is based on ancient Chinese stories which feature the character of Monkey, a monk called Tripitaka, half man-half animal Piggsy and Sandy the water demon.

It was turned into a cult TV show in the 1970s.

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