RICHARD BONA / “Richard Bona Mixtape”

It’s the usual musical African musical genius story: born in the rural area, moved to the city; went to a European metropolis and made it big, eventually even moving to the United States; absorbed all the music around him and investigated music he had never heard before; had a talent not just for performing but also for composing; was chameleon-like in his ability to adapt to widely divergent genres.
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In the case of Richard Bona the country was Cameroun in West Africa. The rural area was Minta. The city was Douala and the European metropolis was Paris. The major influence he had never heard was Jaco Pastorious, whose record inspired Richard to seriously take up bass. The move to New York City installed Richard on the music scene.

In addition to performing with oodles of nationally known musicians such as Pat Metheney and the Brecker brothers, Bona also served as musical director for a 1998 Harry Belafonte European tour. Although bass is his main instrument Bona is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked professionally as a percussionist and guitarist including touring and recording with Joe Zawinul’s influential Zawinul Syndicate. In a ten-year period he has produced seven albums in addition to numerous recordings as a sideman with various artists.
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Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo was born October 28, 1967. He started off as a self-taught musician/singer who had a talent for learning music and learning how to play instruments simply by listening and looking. In his early twenties, Bona studied music for seven years in France.

Bona is now both an in-demand instrumentalist and a dedicated composer whose music reflects Bona’s wide musical interests. In the Mixtape I’ve included four selections from a 2000 performance at The North Sea Jazz Festival. The combo is composed of David Sanborn on sax, Joe Sample on piano, Brian Blade on drums and Richard Bona on bass. Bona is presented here in a jamming context. He is featured on “Eyala,” the last of the four selections.

The fifth track on the Mixtape is a one-off project from a Marley tribute album. Bona recasts Marley’s “Redemption Song.” It is an astonishing rearranging that opens with children singing at play and closes with chorus and percussion.

And then we present six songs from Bona’s 2009 album, The Ten Shades of Blues. I am totally wowed by range of the album. As a composer and arranger Bona has scored a major achievement.

Richard Bona is a musical shape-shifter who can not only function in diverse settings, he is expert in numerous genres. The album opens with a brief choral introduction and cycles through influences as widely and wildly divergent as Funk and East Indian pop, jazz fusion and contemporary African pop. It’s hard to believe that all of this music emanates from one individual.

In a way Bona reminds me of Quincy Jones; actually beyond Quincy because Quincy can’t sing as well as Bona. Plus, Bona is drawing on rural cultural traditions that offer a perspective completely different from those reared in mono-cultural societies such as the United States. Moreover, there is a sophisticated polish to Bona’s work that reflects his modernity.
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What I find most attractive about Bona’s new album is the air of serenity that pervades the disc. Richard Bona is clearly spiritually in a good place. In one sense Bona’s music perfectly exemplifies the clichéd appellation 'world music' because you can clearly hear elements from all over the world expertly mixed into an appetizing aural dish. Not a simple stew nor a miscellaneous goulash but rather an appetizing and spicy gumbo with a balance of ingredients that offers a bouquet of contrasting albeit complementary flavors.

Richard Bona is definitely a musician with the world in his grasp. Bona offers us a reflection of worlds in transition, of cultures crisscrossing, of roots confident in their depth and branches able to reach far and wide.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Richard Bona Mixtape Playlist

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North Sea Jazz Festival
01 “Corners”
02 “Creole Eyes”
03 “Dina Lann”
04 “Eyala”

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05 “Redemption Song” - Twist of Marley

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The Ten Shades of Blues
06 “Take One”
07 “Shiva Mantra”
08 “Good Times”
09 “Esukudu”
10 “Yara's Blues”
11 “Kurumalete”

This entry was posted on Monday, August 30th, 2010 at 1:03 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “RICHARD BONA / “Richard Bona Mixtape””

tayari Says:
September 2nd, 2010 at 8:16 am

Been away a good while. Too long. Not by choice, just the way life flowed for me. Anyway, there are no words to describe the depth, breath, and unconditional love found in breath of life. Kalamu, you are a burning terrible writer with a unspeakable passion for the music. This comes through with such clarity in your heart/soul link to Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo. Asante sana/thank you ever so much!!!

Heidi Wilson Says:
September 4th, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Thank you Thank you for yet another week of great music!! Some Nina that I never heard… and I’m gonna buy me some Richard Bona music!!!

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