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October 31, 2002

Watch out Britney, Koko is going pop

From: San Mateo County Times, CA
Oct. 31, 2002

Phrases from Gorilla's sign language inspire lyrics for new album
By by Emily Fancher

WOODSIDE -- Koko, the signing gorilla, has led a privileged life. She dotes on her pet kittens, plays with dolls and even sleeps on a pink princess bed.

Now Koko has moved into the glamorous world of pop music with her first CD, "Fine Animal Gorilla," to be released next week by the Gorilla Foundation.

The lyrics on the album were inspired by phrases signed by Koko at her home in Woodside.

She has heard the music composed to accompany the lyrics and seems to approve. When a song about her rubber alligator was played for her, she banged along on her keyboard in apparent delight, said Jenifer Patterson, the marketing director of the Gorilla Foundation.

The foundation was established in 1976 to protect gorillas and other endangered primates, and its founders have taught gorillas to communicate using a variation of American Sign Language.

The Los Angeles-based Laurel Canyon Animal Company, which produces music albums featuring animals, approached the foundation about making the CD.

"We wanted to do something with Koko because she's sentient," said Skip Haynes, a co-founder of Laurel Canyon.

Haynes said they combined information about Koko with lyrics she composed and set it all to music.

"Koko has always listened to a wide range of music," Patterson said. "The whole family will enjoy the music on the album, and kids will want to sing along with the songs."

Proceeds from the album will go toward the foundation's construction of a 70-acre campus in Maui for Koko and Ndume, her companion.

Since its inception in 1999, Laurel Canyon has released such CDs as "Ugly Dogs Need More Love," Catatonic," and "I'm a Green Chicken," a song performed by a parrot that became an international hit, landing Laurel Canyon's founders on "Good Morning America."

The nine tracks on the Koko CD include "Scary Alligator," about Koko's rubber toy, which she uses to try to scare people. "Koko's got a scary alligator that she calls her friend/she's got a scary alligator and they play pretend," goes the song.

Another song was written by a group of 10- and 11-year-olds at the Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park. After learning about Koko, the children wrote the song in Spanish and English and perform it on the album.

"Wouldn't it be fine if Koko would teach us how to sign," the kids sing on the album. "And it would be an awesome thing, if we could teach her how to sing."

Though this is the foundation's first foray into music, Koko has inspired a punk song called "To Koko" by the Palmdale Punks, and a Tiki band called Ape has donated proceeds from shows to the foundation.

For more information on the CD, call (800) ME-GO-APE.

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