Jazz bassist and singer-songwriter Richard Bona. Picture: Supplied
Jazz bassist and singer-songwriter Richard Bona. Picture: Supplied

Global griot Richard Bona fuses ancient traditions with cutting-edge jazz

By Supplied Time of article published Mar 15, 2019

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Cameroonian-born and internationally-acclaimed  Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist and singer-songwriter Richard Bona has established a reputation that transcends cultural and physical boundaries.
He's partnered with music greats, released his own solo albums, held a New York University music professorship, and is himself the proprietor of a legendary New York jazz venue, Club Bonafide. Jazz lovers are in for a treat when Bona brings his musical prowess and personal charisma to the stage of
this year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF).
Bona’s musical roots run deep – his grandfather was a percussionist and celebrated griot, a West African praise singer-storyteller. His mother was a singer. By the age of four, he could play the balafon, a type of xylophone and, having learnt to play the guitar, introduced his first jazz ensemble at a French club in  Douala, Cameroon. Bona studied music in Germany and France, playing in various jazz clubs.

Since 1995 he has been established in New York, where he has played bass guitar with artists of the calibre of  George Benson and Chaka Khan, who will also share her unique sound with festival-goers at this year’s CTIJF. He was the musical director of  Harry Belafonte 's 1998 European Tour and in 2002, he toured with the Pat Metheny Group as bassist, vocalist, guitarist and percussionist.

While Bona has featured in many albums by top-tier jazz musicians, his own debut solo album, “Scenes from My Life”, was released 20 years ago. His
fourth solo album, “Tiki”, included a collaboration with the legendary  John Legend. The album was nominated for Best Contemporary World Music Album at the  49th Grammy Awards  – not only for its musical prowess but also for his renowned engagement with enamoured audiences.
Bona's music took on a distinctive Afro-Cuban flavour with the 2016 release of a heritage album with Cuban band Mandekan Cubano, inspired by West Africa and Cuba’s shared heritage of rich folkloric and traditional music. South African audiences will have the opportunity to experience a performance by this great jazz master at this year’s 20th  celebration of ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’.
CTIJF 2019 celebrates 20 years of international and local jazz this year on 29 and 30 March 2019 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Tickets for CTIJF 2019 are available exclusively at Computicket.

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