Fans call Richard Bona “The African Sting,” critics call him a pro, but it’s his unique and electrifying style of connecting with an audience that best explains what he really is – a true musician. Richard Bona’s seemingly effortless voice, fierce skills on the bass, unique songwriting and arranging expertise, and ability to learn just about any instrument simply by watching, position him as a rare African artist to have established an unassailable reputation on the international scene.
Hailing from Cameroon, Bona remains true to his roots, with African rhythms reflected in each of his eight albums; the first three, Scenes from My Life, Reverence, and Munia display his unique approach to storytelling through sounds. Seeking inspiration in his origins, the themes of Bona’s albums address international concerns which mirror his desire to employ music to show his stance on issues affecting the oppressed. An artist with a purpose, he has expanded into new musical territories and teamed up with Congolese star Lokua Kanza and Antillais singer-composer Gerald Toto to form the lineup for their 2004 album, Toto, Bona, Lokua, on which Bona wrote four tracks.
The trio then hit the road and toured across France; meanwhile Bona was also able to tour Europe with guitarist Mike Stern and guest-starred on Japanese guitarist Kazumi Watanabe’s album, Mo Bop 2. The pair subsequently embarked on a tour of Japan, providing Bona with the opportunity to absorb the culture and sounds of a new setting into his work. He has also toured with Pat Metheny and guest-appeared on two of Bobby McFerrin’s albums, along with many other notable collaborations.
In 2004, he garnered recognition at the celebrated Victoires du Jazz Awards where he took the trophy for “Best International Artist” of the year – a confirmation of his ability to captivate a variety of audiences ranging from jazz to pop, Latin, traditional, Afro-beat, and funk. Bona guest-appeared on Mario Canonge’s 2005 album Rhizome and contributed to the soundtrack for Pascal Plisson’s film Masai: The Rain Warriors. Also known for his role in the group, Steps Ahead, Bona has performed on many world stages, including the Adelaide International Guitar Festival, and alongside such luminaries as John Legend, featured on his album Tiki, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2007 (“Best Contemporary World Music Album” category).
Following the release of The Ten Shades of Blues, Bona was honored with the Antonio Carlos Jobim Award at the Montreal International Jazz Festival; as one of seven recipients, he was recognized as an artist in the field of world music whose influence on the evolution of jazz is widely acknowledged. In 2012, he received the prestigious SACEM Grand Prize for Jazz (Grand Prix du Jazz SACEM). His gold-certified 2013 album, Bonafied, demonstrates a fusion of cultures which he is continually perfecting. With numerous awards, performances, and years of expertise, Bona has become one of the most accomplished and sought-after musicians of his generation. In 2016, as he continued to redefine his sound, he released the album Heritage, an Afro-Cuban project featuring the band Mandekan Cubano.
“Imagine an artist with Jaco Pastorious’ virtuosity, George Benson’s vocal fluidity, João Gilberto’s sense of melody and harmony, all mixed up with African culture. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Richard Bona!” (Los Angeles Times)