AMP homeEventsSpecial featuresRecommended cdsRecommended readingVarious photosContact AMPRelevant links
Richard Bona

Richard's career as a musician began when he was a mere child in his home country of Cameroon. It goes back to a day someone played a balafon in the family home, the sound of which Richard found very comforting. Richard then constructed and played his own balafon, and also flutes and percussion instruments, and even a 12-string guitar! He also frequently sang in the village church at various ceremonies with his family. A few years later Richard began work at as a musician in the city of Douala, mostly concentrating on guitar playing on a rented instrument. This led to him being hired to assemble a band to play at a new jazz club in a local hotel. Not knowing much about jazz was no deterrent: Richard learnt to play all the available instruments and to read and write music. The most influential piece of music that Richard heard at that time was by electric bass guitarist Jaco Pastorius: as soon as he heard it he began to play bass in that way and went on to explore both fusion and traditional styles.
At the age of 22 Richard left Cameroon for Paris and met up with leading French musicians as well as top African musicians based there like Manu Dibango and Salif Keita. He stayed there for seven years and then had an invitation to visit New York - the intended 4-day stay extended to two weeks and he and his music were so well received that he decided to be based there as from 1995. Whilst in New York Richard worked with many other musicians, went on a world tour with Joe Zawinul and in 1999 recorded his debut album Scenes from my Life. The songs on that album do indeed describe scenes from Richard's life, mostly in Douala language.
Richard opened Manu Dibango's performance at The Barbican, London, in April 2001. Richard has played during the 2001 and 2003 London Jazz Festivals. In 2001 he had a 5-night residency at the Pizza Express Jazz Club (see photo above) and took part in a Radio 3 broadcast. In 2002 Richard was on a year-long world tour as vocalist with Pat Matheny's band. He is a truly great live performer with a stunning voice, leaving you entertained and awe-inspired.
Richard's second album, Reverence, was released in 2001. With his first and

second albums the printed notes give a short description in English of what each track is about. Richard's third album is entitled Munia (The Tale), and it was released in 2003. One track, 'Kalabancoro', features Salif Keita. Cameroonian Coco Mbassi is among the backing vocalists on many of the tracks.
Richard was part of an a-capella trio project with Lokua Kanza and Gerald Toto in 2004, the resulting CD is Toto Bona Lokua on the 'No Format' label. In 2006 Richard recordedTiki, with guests John Legend, Susheela Raman and Djavan. Tiki was nominated for an award in the 49th Grammy Awards in the category "Contemporary World Music Album". On The Ten Shades of Blues (2009) Richard includes more musicians with great sounds including Niladiri Kumar on sitar and Bailo Baa on fula flutes. The song 'Mbemba Mama' is for all mothers, especially Richard's own!
A documentary DVD African Tale (2005)
gives an intimate insight into Richard's background, work and his family as well as concert footage. Herbie Hancock, Manu Dibango and many others describe his personality and musicianship.
Richard has a great looking website called Bonatology. As the sub-title of the opening track on Munia says, "Welcome to my Universe": the site does indeed show Richard's universe with lots of features where you can keep up to date with his tours etc. Here's a link: Bonatology