Here’s a fantastic video from the the good people at GuitarCoop in Brazil, shot two years ago, but just released to YouYube in February 2019. The piece is a 2016 composition by Sérgio Assad called Sun Wukong’s Toccata, inspired by the Monkey King character from an ancient Chinese novel called Journey to the West. Assad dedicated the piece to Chinese guitarist Meng Su, known both as an extraordinary solo artist and as one-half of the Beijing Guitar Duo. In her notes accompanying the music, which was published by Doberman-Yppan, Meng Su writes:
“Sun Wukong is a superhero, he masters many special weapons, and is capable of 72 transformations into any person or object. On top of that, he has this charming, mischievous, kind and cool personality. He is every child’s hero in China and certainly in other cultures: He is the original of Goku, the main character of Japanese manga book Dragonball. I still remember when I was a kid, I would practice the guitar hard for many hours so my mom would reward me with the latest issue of the Dragonball manga book.
“Over the years of playing the guitar, I have always been amazed by its beauty, its colors, and the infinite possibilities of the instrument—the guitar is capable of playing so many different styles of music from all over the world! In this way, I find the guitar similar to the Monkey King; it can do 72 transformations, too! And I’m so happy and honored that another childhood hero of mine—Sérgio Assad—would write a piece about the Monkey King on the guitar!”
It’s a wonderful multi-layered work, with many different sections, a blend of modern sonorities and Chinese colors (Oriental scales, etc.); at once virtuosic, but also with moments of beautiful simplicity. This video represents the first recording of the work; no doubt there will be others, as more guitarists strive to unlock its magical properties. (You can also purchase the music through Strings By Mail and other outlets.) —Blair Jackson