Wednesday, 4th October 2023

Kuami Eugene… Conversing Ghana’s merchant of melodies

By Chinonso Ihekire
15 April 2023   |   3:10 am
Among the contemporary class of pop mavericks torching through the African music scene, Eugene Marfo, professionally known as Kuami Eugene, is one with a twist. His intricacies stretch beyond his fusion-focused pop towards more detailed craftsmanship, like storytelling and harmonization.

Kuami Eugene

Among the contemporary class of pop mavericks torching through the African music scene, Eugene Marfo, professionally known as Kuami Eugene, is one with a twist. His intricacies stretch beyond his fusion-focused pop towards more detailed craftsmanship, like storytelling and harmonization.
The former All African Music Awards (AFRIMA)’s Most Promising Act tunnelled through the chokehold of the African pop scene with his earliest hits in 2017, including the acclaimed Angela, among others. And he has now gone on to cart awards, and over 200 million song plays across his discography.
With Kuami Eugene, it’s euphony of humour, harmony and heartfelt storytelling. His most recent viral hit, Take Away, broke out on TikTok, among other apps, giving him one of the biggest breaks of his career. Strapped with a deliberate maturation of his sound, Eugene is set to step out with a new project titled Rags 2 Riches where he creatively explores his highlife fusions, retaining his trademark messages of romance, survival and love.
As he gears towards his African tour, which commences next month, he catches up with Guardian Music, shaping up the apt portrait of his artistry, delving from influences to creative processes, among others, to his vision for his music and brand. In this edition, we explore one of Ghana’s finest, whose discography illuminates him as a force to reckon. 

What are you up to right now? 
Yeah, I mean, I’m currently in the studio actually.

What are you working on?

I’m just still working on my album and even though I’m almost done with everything on the album, I keep getting some different vibes. Also, I keep changing songs on the album. So, yeah, that’s what I’m working on at the moment.

How many songs have you changed right now?
I’ve changed about four already.

Oh, really? What are you trying to achieve with the album?
It’s a wider range of listening audience and, I mean, an album that will not just be on people’s mobile phone or people’s platforms for them to listen to it, but something that can stick to them like a property.
I’m working on something they can, move with on their daily lives. So, it’s, actually pushing me to changing things to make it, and suit what I really want.

Is this what you’ve always really wanted or is it something you just thought of right now?
No, it’s something I’ve always really wanted. But, you know, with Afrobeat currently, the vibe keeps changing and, and there’s a new vibe right now where we’re mixing Afrobeat with, Amapiano and all.
So, I need that touch and also I keep working on it and when there’s a new vibe, I try as much as possible to fuse something in there that will keep people. I mean, to remind them that okay, this is a new vibe and that his piece is part of it.

What’s your natural sound? 
I think it’s a fusion of a normal Afrobeat and, a little bit of highlife music; that’s the actual vibe. It’s the normal one.

Then again, you do a lot of highlife?
Yeah, with high life, I mean, legends that I’ve been looking up to since I was a kid were more soaked into highlife. Looking at legendary Daddy Lumba to Fela and Flavor was a big favourite of mine as well and he does high life as well. So, I happen to be glued to Highlife. And I think that is what influenced what I started recording as a mainstream artiste.

When did you start recording as a mainstream artist?
I think when I turned 18. I think I had started recording as a mainstream artiste when I turned 18 and I had Angela when I was 19. And yeah, it just moved on from there.

What was that flip-switch moment where you figured out this was what you wanted to do professionally?
So, all my life, I’ve always wanted to do music. I’ve always loved the fact that, I mean, some people that I look up to you stand on that. That feeling when you stand on stage and everybody is singing your songs back to you and I think it got us a lot of respect and I’ve always wanted to play my part as a human being with how humanity is and the existence of humanity in the first place.

I think music is one way of adding your name to the books, so that one day, when you’re all done, you hang your boots and all. Your name can be mentioned as a legend or somebody who played part in helping humanity with the fun part, with the entertainment. So I’ve always wanted to be that person that stands on stage and have people share my songs back to me and because I had a talent, I had to work hard to get to this level that people sing my songs back to me.

So, ever since I was a kid, this is what I’ve always been dreaming about. I’ve worked towards it since I was a kid; I had no other dream. I think I had football, but I had the music in me more.

Did you ever try out playing football? 
Yeah, I was a standard nine; I was a very good striker. Actually, if you go on my Instagram page, I even posted a video of me playing football two days ago and I was taking a free kick; everyone was wowed.
So, if not for music, I think I would have gone for football, because I was playing some local teams before I became a professional musician.

What would you say are some of the most memorable moments in your career? 
I think the first one was in 2018 when I took the most promising artiste of the year at the AFRIMA – the most promising artiste, African artiste of the year in 2018. Second was my time with Davido, I think somewhere in 2019-2020, when I was in the UK. We recorded together there and he flew back to Ghana to shoot the video with me. He told me to keep everything that comes from the music video and the song and yeah, that it’s, it’s quite memorable. I always have it in mind.

What are we expecting as features in the album?
For the features, expect greatness. I mean, I’ve done quite with a number of Nigerian artistes already and doing some other African artistes, I’ve done Rotimi from the States. So, that’s basically what I’m working on, because I want to reach a wider range of listeners and bring good features and worldwide features is what I’m working on. I’ve been able to do a couple, so it’s a big album. I mean, fingers crossed; expect greatness.

Does that mean you don’t want to disclose the full list right now?
Yeah, not so much, but I’m sure the list will come out in two weeks, maybe before the album comes.

How fictional is your music?
It’s 100 per cent non-fictional. Most of the things I say in my music are my daily life and what I’ve been through before I would think. I’ve been in a situation where someone took something very precious away from me just because I didn’t have a car then; he had a car and he took my girl away.

Then I was quite young. I think when I was around 17 before I even grew up. So, I’ve had that experience before. Most of the songs that I record are about life experiences and things that I see around me.
You tell these stories and sometimes they sound comical. Are you deliberate about making this?

Yeah, I mean, highlife is basically people living a high life. So, no matter the situation, you find a way to put smiles on people’s faces, and at the same time tell real life stories. Do you understand?
So, my recording process, my writing process is always about putting a smile on people’s faces, but yes, reminding them about the realities of life. That’s basically what goes on when I’m writing.

So, what part of your career do you enjoy the most?
The most difficult part is making the music, and the part I enjoy most is performing it. Performing it is just the enjoyable part of it, because when you don’t make good music and you don’t promote it or to get to the level that you want, you can’t get to perform and enjoy it as you want, because people don’t even know how to sing a song.

But if you have a good song and you’re singing and people are singing it back to you, that’s when you will know you’ve done the job. So, even though it’s the part that I enjoy, that’s not the part that I focus on. What I focus on is getting the songs out there and, and putting together a good song that is interesting.

Speaking of performances, you are set to go on tour in a few weeks, how the plan going?
It’s in a bit. I’m supposed to be in the States and we’re working on an African tour as well, because we’ve been having a lot of requests for more African countries. I mean, since about three years now and I still haven’t been in those countries. So, I think this is the perfect time to tour. And once I’m done with the album, I will go on the tour.

Looking at the industry currently, if you could change something, what would it be currently?
The African music scene! I think this is because we’re in our perfect times as African musicians where we’re helping and supporting each other. So, to change something, I don’t think this is the time to change anything. The only thing I probably would like to change is the dominance of other people in other countries. That’s basically what I would love to change, which I think should be a natural effort. I mean, it’s not anyone’s fault that some music is being played in other nations and some other nations. But if I could change something, that is what I would try and change.

Who else among your contemporaries would you say you look forward to working with? 
I would love to work with Wizkid. I would love to work with Davido one more time. I would love to work with Diamond Platnumz. I would love to work with Nonso Amadi. I’ll like to work with Dave even though he’s not an Afrobeat artiste. These are people I would love to work with.

So, what is the vision for Kuami Eugene?
The vision is actually big; it is to tap into the worldwide audience and that’s what I’ve been working on, I think four years now, to get my music to every side of the world. So shout out to Ckay for taking this start for me. Love Nwantiti was a good look; my song with Rotimi has been very good as well. So, that has been the dream. That has been the vision art as well and that’s where we are working towards; to get the whole world to listen to the jams.

Finally, if you could tell us three interesting facts about Kuami what would those be?
Oh ok. I don’t have a tattoo or needles. Trust me, I have a fear for putting needles in my body. It’s not about the toughness; I just don’t like it touching my body. Secondly, I’m a core Christian; I don’t play with God. Then, I think if I had the opportunity to become somebody that’s from the West or maybe an American or from Europe and I still have the opportunity to fully become an American or a European or something, I think I will still choose Africa; have that in mind.

Even though a lot of people want to go seek for greener pastures, I will without any doubt, choose to be an African one more time. Even if I have the opportunity, I will still choose to be an African. I think that’s one big opportunity and it’s a big flex for me. Yeah, I think these are the three things people don’t know about me.

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