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Ever since his solo debut in 1999, RICHARD BONA has defended the idea of music that’s universal: generous and accessible to all. He was born in 1967 in Minta, a tiny Cameroon village, into a family where both his mother and grandfather were singers. Richard was playing the balafon by the time he was four, and then he taught himself to play the guitar. Later, in the capital of Douala, a jazz-club owner played him records by bassist Jaco Pastorius; Richard decided he’d teach himself to play bass as well. In 1989 he went to Europe, living in Germany for a while before moving to France to complete his bass education. He took lessons for some seven years in Paris, and at the same time he became a familiar figure in the capital’s clubs, where he met Didier Lockwood and Marc Ducret, and the Africans Manu Dibango and Salif Keita. In 1995 Richard went to New York. For the next few months he visited the city’s famous jazz clubs and worked with Michael and Randy Brecker, Pat Metheny, Larry Coryell, Mike Stern, Steve Gadd, Joe Zawinul, even singer Harry Belafonte. Richard Bona suddenly had a reputation for being one of the best bassists of his time, and by now he was also giving people a glimpse of his other talents as a composer and singer. A solo career was beckoning.
Scenes From My Life was released in 1999. It was followed by Reverence (2001), Munia: The Tale (2003), Tiki (2006, with John Legend and Djavan), and the live album Bona Makes You Sweat in 2008. The musician found his audience immediately: his brio as a fluid instrumentalist made everything seem easy, and his slender singing voice had real melody; coupled with these musical talents were his gifts as a natural showman, for Bona appeared to be born for the stage. Above all, his compositions naturally took in different sources: Africa, jazz, fusion, etc. Bona was still highly sought-after as an instrumentalist, and he regularly received calls from some of the greatest musicians, including the late Joe Zawinul, Mike Stern, and Larry Coryell. His reputation went beyond jazz and world music however, and he caught the attention of such stars as Bobby McFerrin, Paul Simon, Chick Corea, Chaka Khan, and George Benson. In 2004, Richard Bona joined his talents with those of Lokua Kanza from the Congo and Gerald Toto from Martinique, and together they released TotoBonaLokua. Ten Shades Of Blues (2010), Richard Bona’s fifth studio CD, synthesizes his thirst for new things, even if Bona’s unmistakable stamp can be heard after just a few bars: “It’s my role to make all this coherent. It wouldn’t be nice for the listener to zip from one mood to the next if there wasn’t a link.”