H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons

Flea teaches Koko the gorilla how to play bass

Rock out for Harambe.


Aaron Sankin

Internet Culture

Published Aug 20, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 5:27 am CDT

To paraphrase every music joke ever, the bass guitar is an instrument so simple even a gorilla could play it.

Fact check: True!

On Friday, a video hit the internet of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea chilling with Koko, the western lowland gorilla who achieved international notoriety after learning how to communicate with over 1,000 words in the variation of American Sign Language dubbed Gorilla Sign Language.

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In the minute-long clip, Flea lays back while Koko goes to town on his bass, strumming the strings and fiddling with the instrument’s volume and tone control knobs. “This is the greatest thing that could ever happen,” Flea said in the video. “It is a day I will never forget in my life.”

The video, which was released on Flea’s Facebook page, has racked up over seven million views by Saturday afternoon.

In another clip, Flea compliments Koko’s technique and offers Koko the bass to keep if she wants more practice.

The collaboration is a fundraiser for the Gorilla Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works for preservation and education about Gorillas. The foundation is behind Project Koko, which the group’s website bills as “the longest interspecies communications study in history.”

Flea received a fair bit of criticism for his impressionistic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles prior to Kobe Bryant’s finals NBA game, which he shrugged off. Maybe a two-bass instrumental duet might have done a better job of winning over the crowd, though.

H/T Pitchfork

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*First Published: Aug 20, 2016, 6:00 pm CDT