18 things to know about Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona


18 things to know about Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona

Richard Bona, whose real name is Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo, is an exceptional Cameroonian singer and bass player. He is a jazz and world music artist. He was born on 28 October 1967 in Minta, a small village in the department of Haute-Sanaga, Cameroon. 

  • 1/ He comes from a family of musicians. His grandfather was a singer and percussionist. And his mother was also a singer.
  • 2/ Since he was a child. He lives only for music and singing. He was introduced to the balafon at the age of 3, and performed several times a week with the Minta church orchestra until the age of 10.
  • 3/ A multi-instrumentalist, he makes his own instruments. He uses turtle carcasses to make his flutes and guitars. He learned all his bass lines and built one for himself using bicycle brakes as strings. And he managed to get the right sounds out of it by screwing up his fingers.
  • 4/ During his childhood, Richard Bona discovered the bass through African musicians like Jean Dikoto and Vicky Edimo.
  • 5/ In 1980, he formed his first band for a jazz club in Douala owned by a Frenchman. The owner introduced him to jazz and in particular to Jacob Pastorius. After listening to Jacob, he decided to play bass.
  • 6/ Richard Bona sings in Douala, his mother tongue, in Cameroon. “An ancient Douala,” he says. It was passed on to him by his great-grandfather and few Cameroonians speak it.
  • 7/ At the age of 22, he emigrated to Germany for two months where he enrolled at the conservatory to learn the basics of reading music, then arrived in France to study music.
    8/ He then played regularly in jazz clubs and performed with Jacques Higelin, Didier Lockwood, Manu Dibango, Salif Keita, Francis Lassus, etc.
    9/ In 1995, he was refused an extension of his residence permit and was forced to leave French territory. He went back to Cameroon. But Harry Belafonte will go and get him to play in his orchestra. This is how he settled in New York, in the United States.
  • 10/ In the same year, he opened a jazz club “Club Bonafide” in Manhattan. His club is open every night except Monday, with free master classes on Sundays for children.
    11/ In the United States, they played with Harry Belafonte, for whom he was musical director.
  • 12/ In New York, he becomes the bassist of choice. Everyone is asking for him. An artist of the world, he slipped into the world of each of the stars he accompanied. He works with George Benson, Paul Simon, Chaka Khan, Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Joe Zawinul. He is a frequent visitor to jazz clubs, working with artists such as Larry Coryell, Michael and Randy Brecker, Pat Metheny, Mike Mainieri, Mike Stern, Steve Gadd, Russell Malone, the Indian drummer and percussionist Trilok Gurtu and Joe Zawinul. Richard Bona also plays with Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist Bill Evans’ group Soulgrass.
  • 13/ In 2004, he won the Victoires du jazz award in the category International Artist or Group of the Year. The following year, his album Tikiaux sonorités latines was nominated for a Grammy Award.  
  • 14/ In 2008, he became an American citizen and voted in the presidential election for the first time. In the same year, he opened a new club-restaurant and expanded.
    15/ Richard Bona’s manager is Quincy Jones.
    16/ In 2012, he received the Grand Prix jazz de la Sacem for “Bonafied”.
    17/ In 2016, he will give 115 concerts around the world. However, he will not be performing in his native country, as he has not returned there since 2012.
  • 18/ He is a very active entrepreneur. He is a jazz club owner, a Brazilian coffee producer and has his own brand. He does a lot of other things besides music. He justifies his entrepreneurial fever by his desire to continue making music for pleasure, without the pressure and stress of album sales. He feels free from the diktat of the record companies.

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