How Kuami Eugene is single-handedly bringing back “Jama” and “Adowa” music through the fast growing drill music

Kuami Eugene…Versatile, Iconic vocalist, oozing charisma and one of Ghana’s youngest Highlife/Afrobeat icons! 

Many Highlife/Afrobeat artists have emerged in recent years precisely in the post-2015 ‘new artists’ era but Kuami Eugene seemingly from nowhere has stood out. 

His songs aren’t just about the voice. There’s so much more like his unique beat and how each part of his recent songs are almost of a different genre. His skills come down to how versatile he is in terms of merging the Adowa and Djama genres while doing his thing. 

Kuami Eugene’s ‘switch’ played on a song he got featured on and co-produced, “Biibi besi”. The song starts on a typical Adowa rhythm through Kuami Eugene’s verse then switches to Highlife from the hook, obviously different from the conventional Highlife beat we often hear. 

Adowa music…A little digression to appreciate this genre. 

Performed by the Akans, Adowa is the most widespread musical genre with locally made instruments like the talking drum (petia), a split bell (adawuraa), a rattle gourd(trowa), an hourglass drum(dondo) and a rhythmic handclapping by an organized ensemble with predominantly female chorus. 

As the traditional funeral music of the Akan people, it is now performed in many different contexts such as puberty rites, marriage rites, traditional festivals where it serves as means of communication and entertainment. Adowa mostly has low or mid-tempo.

Another classic would be his latest feature on Sista Afia’s “Asuoden”. From a low tempo rhythm then gradually alters to a faster groove in Kuami Eugene’s verse. Pure class and authenticity.

Now how did Jama come to play in all this? 

When we listen to a song like “Abodie” we can see the influence there from Jama, more verve, energetic and up-tempo. The main verse begins with a hip life rhythm then blending in Jama before the first rap verse. The next beat after Captain Planet’s second rap verse features an ascending scale that’s typical of Jama rhythm. 

While we dissect the Jama genre incorporation, let’s take a look at what Jama is.

Jama is a musical genre coined by the people of the coastal lands, mainly the Ga fisher folk as a form of entertainment to harness cultural creativity while at the shore. Like Adowa, jama songs are performed with almost all the instruments, a castanet and a rhythmic hand-clapping.

Jama rhythm is groovier, hyper and cheering. Interestingly the genre over the years has transcended the shores into public sphere to schools to influencing the mainstream music like Hip life, Highlife as far as gospel music in Ghana. If you’ve been following Ghana music long enough then you know the ‘Abodie’ style is not novel. Other artists in the previous few years had laid the groundwork. 

This is evident in songs from the early and mid-2000s_ Songs like aaye fe notse by King David featuring Samini, Castro’s sradinam and toffee, sikletele by 4×4, yenpie by Bak tye, meni mi joly by VIP which were Djama masterpieces all pioneered and produced by the legendary Jay-Q, one of Ghana’s most prolific record producer.

These hits along jama influenced the Highlife genre transcended the borders of Ghana to Nigeria and other countries. 

Which begs the question… ‘What really happened?’ 

Starting in the early 2000s and accelerating during 2013, the Jama hip life and highlife genre began to lose its foothold in the mainstream. 

Fast-forward 2021, Ghanaians saw a rebirth of the Jama highlife from Kuami Eugene. He has reemerged the genre with his style making it a contemporary wave. In his recent features the ‘Rock star’ merges both Jama and Adowa in a single song. 

The instrumental section of these songs follows the same pattern, featuring the drum and a fast-paced slit bell reminiscent of Jama and Adowa. 

We went from appreciating his singing to loving his rap verses from the latest ‘Kumerican’ drill music (Ghana’s iteration of the American drill music), to his new wave genre and to producing some of these songs, not all Artists get to be lauded to such degree. 

As a producer, Kuami Eugene gets to play around with different beats digitally to suit his artistic style. 

With no shred of doubt, we know Kuami Eugene is a national treasure by how he’s reviving these genres in contemporary music and carving out his legacy in the music industry.