With much relief, I can report that I’m done listening to Richard Bona‘s solo recorded output. And what music it is! I didn’t review all of it, but I can assure you its all fantastic. A must listen. And this one, his latest studio effort, is his best yet.
As has become somewhat customary with Richard Bona records, the album begins with a vocal harmony laden track. And as always, it is beautiful. But it pales in comparison to what comes next. The list of Indian guest musicians on “Shiva Mantra” reads as follows: Shankar Mahadevan, Nandini Sirkar, Vivek Rajgopalan, Satyajit Talwalkar and Niladri Kumar. As you probably know, this is a list of some of the best there are in India. So there is Indian percussion, Indian vocals, sitar in addition to Bona’s bass playing and African vocals. It’s a recipe for a Kevin Federline-esque musical train wreck, if not handled properly.
Well, is it?
You must’ve gathered by now that Bona seems to be on a mission to show the different genres (colors, if you will) of music that he can navigate with ease, while maintaining the overall integrity of the music. And strike me a pinkie, he does it effortlessly. So in the course of this record, we have Marcus Miller-esque RnB, Indian classical infused with fingerstyle funk bass, bluegrassy cowboy music, and a whole lot else. The range is baffling. Watch out for the bluegrassy “African Cowboy” for a sexy banjo (!) solo.
Due to the exotic reach of his music on this album, some of the more, shall we say ‘conventional’ cuts on this record fall short in their power. “Mbemba Mama” and “Kurumalete” for instance, are more traditional African-pop sounding rhythmic thingses, but they feel a bit limp compared to the genius meeting of cultures that is “Shiva Mantra” and the sensual RnB of “Good Times”. Too bad for them, for in isolation they are meritorious displays of musicality.
Bona is as much of a musician as he is a story teller.
There is an aspect to Bona which, I think, is a rare commodity today. He is as much of a musician as he is a story teller. Of course, I can’t make out anything of the words he is saying, but then in a dimension of pure sound, one doesn’t need to. Think about that a bit. The great bands or musicians of today sound awesome. But how many get under your skin and camp out? Look at the number of Bona reviews I’ve done over the last two months for evidence of his ability. He has that quality. As you might have guessed, this sounds very right.
More RICHARD BONA reviews HERE.
JAZZ/JAZZ FUSION, you say? Reviews HERE.
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