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Grammy Winner Richard Bona Opens Up About Jaco Pastorius, New Music and More

The Cameroonian jazz bassist will be in Mumbai later this month to speak at a TEDxGateway

David Britto Feb 14, 2020

Cameroonian jazz bassist Richard Bona. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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For someone who is looking for a sense of direction, a TEDxGateway event is the perfect place to find inspiration. Previously, accomplished personalities such as U.K. musician Sting and American entrepreneur Jeff Bezos have shared their experiences at TED events to possibly implement their ideas and methods to further others. One of these accomplished personalities, Grammy Award-winning Cameroonian bassist Richard Bona, will be making his way to India to speak at a TEDxGateway event on February 23rd at Mumbai’s NSCI Dome.

Bona – who grew up in Minta – was surrounded by a family full of musicians. He says, “They would play all of the time so I got to be close to music pretty much since birth.” Performing in church was where Bona started off as a musician. The bassist admits that at the time the concept of being a professional musician was not an option. “Playing concerts for people is not something we would do,” he says.

By the late Eighties, Bona moved to Europe and that’s when he truly started cutting his teeth as a serial performer playing with the likes of French pop singer Jacques Higelin and jazz violinist Didier Lockwood. “It was a different scenario [in Europe]. I would be hired and paid to perform in front of people that would pay to see me and the band perform,” the musician says.

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Over the years, Bona has played with everyone from American singer Chaka Khan to jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin. He tells us that each person he’s had the opportunity to perform with has influenced him. The bassist says, “I’ve been very fortunate to share the stage with a tremendous range of different artists from pop, jazz, classical, etc. Every time, I learned from these incredible artists, on and off stage.”

Being a bassist, one of Bona’s biggest inspirations is late American jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius. He says, “Jaco was my introduction to jazz music. And it’s very simple: the very first time I heard Jaco, I was 14 and everything changed immediately.” Bona adds, “I listened to every record of his I could find and learned every single note.” Bona also had a full-circle moment when he filled in on bass for late keyboardist Joe Zawinul’s band who was in jazz fusion outfit Weather Report with Pastorius.

The last time the bassist toured India was in 2008 and he says, “I love playing there (India) because the people know music really well. Music is part of the Indian DNA so it’s always a pleasure to share music with Indian musicians and fans.”

Bona’s last record Heritage was released in 2016. Ask him if he has any new material in the works and he says, “Yes, new album coming this year.” The musician is working with Cuban artist Alfredo Rodriguez on the record and tells us that as soon as he is done with the TEDxGateway – where he will talk about dedication, trust and the music business – he’s heading straight back to the studio to “polish the sound.” The musician says, “I cannot wait to share new music with the world.” What does Bona hope people take away at his TEDxGateway talk? He says, “Love and caring to each other. This is what I’m preaching every day.”

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Click here to buy tickets for TEDxGateway on February 23rd in Mumbai. 

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