Born: October 28, 1967
Born in 1967 in the village of Minta in East Cameroon, Richard Bona grew up in a home filled with music. He began to perform in public at the age of five, singing in the village church with his mother and four sisters. His earliest instruments were wooden flutes and hand percussion. Eventually he constructed his own 12-string acoustic guitar. After moving to the bigger city of Douala, Richard began playing gigs at the age of 11 on a rented electric guitar. A major turning point in his life happened in 1980 when a Frenchman came to his town and established a jazz club in a local hotel. The club owner heard about the young local prodigy and hired him to assemble a band. I didn't know anything about jazz, Richard says, but the gig paid really well, so I took it. The hotel provided the instruments, so Richard would spend his entire day there, learning to play all of the instruments and teaching himself to read and write music. The club owner also offered his collection of 500 jazz LPs as a kind of reference library for Bona to start learning the repertoire. Purely by chance, the first record he pulled out of the stacks was Jaco Pastorius, the revolutionary self-titled debut album from 1976 by the bassist from Weather Report. This single album became a kind of Rosetta Stone for Bona's entry into jazz. Before I heard Jaco I'd never even considered playing bass, he recalls. But when I heard that music, and especially the tune 'Portrait of Tracy,' it changed my life...
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Imagine an artist with Jaco Pastorious's virtuosity, George Benson's vocal fluidity, Joao Gilberto's sense of song and harmony, all mixed up with African culture. Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you Richard Bona! -- Los Angeles Times