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Richard Bona: The Ten Shades of Blues

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You’ll hear nothing on The Ten Shades of Blues that resembles John Lee Hooker, B.B. King or Lightnin’ Hopkins, and that’s the point: Richard Bona, the Cameroonian bassist and vocalist, finds a universal blues essence in places others would never think to look. There’s “African Cowboy,” for example. With its layered vocals (all Bona), banjo, fiddle and mandolin (the latter also Bona), it resembles traditional bluegrass more than any known brand of blues. Yet the track’s simple progression is unmistakably blueslike, and that same pulse lies at the heart of “Shiva Mantra,” recorded in various locales in India. With its crossover Eastern and Western instrumentation, the tune’s all about the trance, Bona’s adamant bassline and a bevy of Indian percussion (tabla, mridangam, ganjira) subtly providing a foundation for the malleable, airborne vocals of Bona and Indian singers Shankar Mahadevan (of Remember Shakti fame) and Nandini Srikar.

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