Born in 1967 in the village of Minta in East Cameroon, 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.
In 1989, at age 22, Bona moved to Paris and soon began working with such leading French musicians as violinist Didier Lockwood and bassist Marc Ducret as well as such African stars as Manu Dibango and Salif Keita. During his seven years in Paris, Richard refined his writing skills while further immersing himself in the music of jazz greats like Miles Davis, Chet Baker and Ben Webster.
Since arriving in New York in 1995, bassist-vocalist-composer Richard Bona has been one of the most sought-after talents on the scene.