Bona was born into a family of musicians, which enabled him to start learning music from a young age. His grandfather was a griot – a West African singer of praise and storyteller – and percussionist, and his mother was a singer. At 4 years old, Bona started to play the balafon. At the age of 5, he began performing at his village church. Not being wealthy, Bona made many of his own instruments: including flutes and guitars (with cords strung over an old motorcycle tank).His talent was quickly noticed, and he was often invited to perform at festivals and ceremonies. Bona began learning to play the guitar at age 11, and in 1980 aged just 13, he assembled his first ensemble for a French jazz club in Douala. The owner befriended him and helped him discover jazz music, in particular that of Jaco Pastorius, which inspired Bona to switch his focus to the electric bass.
Bona emigrated to Germany at the age of 22 to study music in Düsseldorf, soon relocating to France, where he furthered his studies in music.Whilst in France, he regularly played in various jazz clubs, sometimes with players such as Manu Dibango, Salif Keita, Jacques Higelin and Didier Lockwood.In 1995, Richard left France and established himself in New York, where he still lives and works. In New York he played bass guitar with artists like Joe Zawinul, Larry Coryell, Michael and Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, George Benson, Branford Marsalis, Chaka Khan, Bobby McFerrin, and Steve Gadd.In 1998, Richard was the Musical Director on Harry Belafonte's European Tour.His debut solo album, Scenes from My Life
, was released in 1999. He has also been prominently featured in Jaco Pastorius Big Band albums, as well as many other albums by various top-tier jazz musicians.In 2002 Bona went on a world tour with the Pat Metheny Group as a percussionist/vocalist.In 2005 Bona released his fourth solo album Tiki
, which included a collaboration with John Legend on one track, entitled "Please Don't Stop.
"He held a professorship of jazz music at New York University.