A single listening to the opening bars of this new album's title-tune should be enough, even with only half an ear: you're hooked. The voice is so pure and suave that it seems to emerge from the ether, its sumptuous arrangements interlaced with skilful polyrhythm. You need nothing else to be convinced: Richard Bona has just made the album of his dreams.
"Tiki", as it's called, is an album still unequivocally in line with the aesthetics and spirituality of its three predecessors, yet it strongly demonstrates a new maturity. With his new album, Richard Bona gives us the full dimension of his exceptional talents in an apparently paradoxical, two-fold movement - one that combines introspective clarity with a renewed sense of openness towards the infinitely plural nature of our world today -, and he does this with the simplicity of means and obviousness of expression that are the characteristics of masterpieces.
Surrounded by old accomplices (ATN Stadwijk on keyboards, Vinnie Colauita on drums…), but also by some exceptional guests appearing here and there (Susheela Raman, Djavan, Mike Stern or Gil Goldstein), Richard Bona delights in exploring his aesthetic and imaginary territories without the journey ever lapsing into a travelogue… There's Africa, of course, a land of myths and intimacy, both ancestral and ultra-contemporary; there's also the extraordinary cosmopolitanism of the great cultural capitals of our global village, with a soundtrack that borrows as much from jazz as it does from Afro-Cuban rhythms, from the precious suavity of Brazil's harmonies as much as from the energy of rap, and from the grooving nonchalance of the Caribbean as much as from the extreme precision of Anglo-Saxon pop.
It is this extraordinary agglomerate of diverse, multiple influences, this swarming mass of simultaneous identities, that Richard Bona today manages to express so masterfully in his music, and he does it without sacrificing any of his style to a kind of baroque one-upmanship. Quite the contrary: never has his exceptional virtuosity seemed so under control, so channelled into a single musicality; never have his talents as a melodist been so incarnate so obviously, so spontaneously; and never have his arrangements been so uncluttered, while losing none of their richness and sensuality. Between jazzy ballads (Esoka Bulu) and sambas revisited (Akwa samba Yaya), from a dreamlike tribute to Jaco Pastorius (Three Women) to an African nursery rhyme (Ida Bato), "Tiki", without a shadow of a doubt, is Richard Bona's album of maturity.