The life celebrating student of music. A talk with Richard Bona
Cameroon-born American bass guitarist, singer and multi-instrumentalist Richard Bona will perform in the autumn concert series Art of Riga Jazz on November 16 at the VEF Palace of Culture. In collaboration with the excellent Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez Bona’s acoustic palette has been given new colors and vigor.
It is a meeting of two generations in one ocean – the one where the most passionate music in the world floats. As result a new trio is formed together with the great Cuban drummer Michael Oliveira.
We had a small online talk with real busy international jazz star Richard Bona who revelead the historical joy for this project, the neverending feeling of studying the music and remembering to embrace the peace in everyday life.
What is most exciting about the relatively new collaboration with Cuban musicians Alfredo Rodriguez and Michael Oliveira?
What is interesting on this collaboration is that we all share historically and musically a lot. Meaning the fact that this music is actually over five hundred years old brought by a mix of African slaves and Spanish conquistadors. And also the natives. People forget about the natives, actually people there were already living on the islands. So Afro-Cuban music is one of the oldest forms of music. We all share this thing together. That is the most important thing I can say about it.
What can the audience in Riga expect from such a promising trio of musicians?
The audience in Riga should expect something hip, something cool, something beautiful. Just like all the audience have done around the world were we had a chance to perform. It’s been a blast everywhere. So, we are looking forward to be there and play again.
Do you look more backward or forward in music?
I look backward in term of I were where. If I don’t look backward I can not adhence in my music. We are transforming my music and I have to look backward in term of building my future. And I have to look at the future up in the future. I am being a student of music. When you are student of music, you are student of music for life! It makes you look at the whole circle of before, of now and after.
What do you keep looking for in music, what else do you want to touch on in it?
Being a student of music for life I keep on looking for new things around, and I don’t ever wanna feel like I know anything. I wanna feel like a student so I can continue. The more I know anyway, the less I know. I like to learn more.
You were born in Cameroon. When was the last time you were there and what does this country mean to you?
I am no longer going to Cameroon as the government made me persona non grata. The country called Cameroon is runed by a dictator. Unless you kneel down and agree on a celebrated dictator you will not be celebrated there. I don’t ever wanna talk about it. I was actually born in the ugliest place in the world you can imagine. That place is so ugly and mentally ill that I am really glad I don’t live there anymore. And I’m just glad that I don’t have to go there again. I am glad where I am. I go where I’m celebrated. I don’t go where I’m just maybe tolerated.
You are often called the African Sting. What do you say about it?
To people that call me African Sting I keep to remind them that in reality Sting is an English borner. That’s all I can say about it.
On October 28, you celebrate your 55th anniversary. Will there be any special anniversary concerts?
On my birthday I’ll be in South America teaching. I will be down there teaching young musicians. It’s a way of celebrating too. I don’t celebrate birthdays. I celebrate life. And I will be doing that with young musicians and I’ll try to share my experience.
What is the best thing to wish for yourself on your anniversary and for your listeners in general though?
The best thing I can wish to my listeners and fans is to take care of themselves. And to take care of each other. And embrace peace. It’s one of those keys of life. In embracing peace it means you’re embracing the difference. When you embrace the difference you embrace tolerance. That’s the main thing I can wish to people. Much love to everyone in Latvia and looking forward to meet the people, and have fun again!
The concert on November 16 will start at 7 PM. Tickets can be purchased at ekase.lv.
A talk with Richard Bona by Latvian music journalist Kaspars Zaviļeiskis.