A Drummer's Testament
Chapter I-11: The Respect of Drumming and How Drumming Started in Dagbon <PDF
Drummers and chiefs; why chiefs need drummers;
the family relationship of chiefs and commoners; the origin of drumming:
Bizuŋ as the son of Naa Nyaɣsi; origins of Namo-Naa; original drumming of the
land-priests in Dagbon: Ʒɛm and Bandamda; the eldership of the guŋgɔŋ and yua
over the luŋa; the seniority of the luŋa; the respect of drummers and chiefs
Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms
child playing toy drum (giŋgaɣinyɔɣu)
the ruins at Yogu
outline and links by paragraph
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Respect of drumming begins with learning
1. introduction to the respect of drumming; drummers closeness to
2. Alhaji Ibrahim’s respect is from his learnedness in drumming;
learning with seriousness
3. towns where Alhaji Ibrahim learned drumming: Voggo, Nanton,
Tamale, Kintampo, Kumasi, Accra, Takoradi, Yendi
4. any work you do, you need to know the work well
5. to learn drumming, have to learn about the nature of the work of
drumming in tradition
Ways drummers show a person’s respect
6. drummers show a commoner’s relationship to chieftaincy
7. people want to hear about their grandfathers; drummers know the
lines of a person’s family
8. someone who doesn’t know his grandfathers can be abused as a
slave; educated Dagbamba don’t know Dagbon as drummers do
9. drummers know more about chiefs’ families than chiefs themselves
10. people can learn about their families from their elders; drummers
also know praise-names
11. drummers show a person his or her respect by showing the family
12. people can be surprised by drummers’ knowledge
13. chiefs depend on drummers for their respect
14. chiefs without drummers are not chiefs
15. drummers’ knowledge is passed from generation to generation
Origins of drummers: Bizuŋ and Naa
16. Naa Nyaɣsi’s war against the tindanas; the towns were without
chiefs during the time of Nimbu, Naa Gbewaa, and Naa Shitɔbu; Dagbamba at Yɔɣu
17. Naa Nyaɣsi’s son, Bizuŋ, the grandfather of all Dagbamba drummers;
18. Alhaji Ibrahim’s knowledge of these matters from Nanton Lun-Naa
Iddrisu, Palo-Naa and Namo-Naa; Nanton Lun-Naa’s seniority; one should learn
from someone who has eldership
19. Nanton Lun-Naa: Naa Nyaɣsi the father of Bizuŋ from a Guruma woman
who died; Bizuŋ learned drumming from his Guruma grandfather, who gave him a
broken calabash to lessen his sadness
20. Bizuŋ beat broken calabash to beg for food
21. some of Bizuŋ’s brothers and sisters insulted him and some were
helping him; his Guruma grandfather made him a giŋgaɣinyɔɣu, a small drum like
22. Naa Nyaɣsi gave Bizuŋ to Guruma man to train him in drumming; Bizuŋ
said he did not want chieftaincy but would beat and repair family and
23. sense comes from worries
Origins of Namɔɣu: Bizuŋ and Naa Zulandi
24. Naa Nyaɣsi’s son Naa Zulandi becomes Yaa-Naa; Bizuŋ’s older brother
eats Zugu; Zugulana Bim biɛ ka wuni gets praise as Dancing Chief (Waa-Naa)
25. Naa Zulandi gives Namɔɣu to Bizuŋ (Namo-Naa); the meaning of Namɔɣu, sucking
the breast of Yaa-Naa
26. chieftaincy history as stories, proverbs, and names; basis of
27. how Bizuŋ was given chieftaincy, resembling Yaa-Naa; why Zugulana
wears alichɛbba and does not go to Yaa-Naa for cola
28. Namɔɣu first location at Yɔɣu, near Diari
29. Bizuŋ’s popularity; wives and children; Bizuŋ teaches his children
30. first-born of Bizuŋ is Lunʒɛɣu; meaning of Lunʒɛɣu as “red
drummer”; elder drummers gave John the name
31. Bizuŋ’s children and line are the drummers of Dagbon; Namo-Naa
called Bizuŋ zuu; Lelbaa, Banchiri, Ashaɣu; Ashaɣu’s line the beginning of
Palo in Savelugu: Dariʒɛɣu and Kosaɣim
32. old drumming talks are in darkness; some drummers fear talking, and
others say anything and lie; when such lies are written
33. summary: because of Naa Nyaɣsi and Bizuŋ, drummers and chiefs
follow one another
Origins of drumming: the tindanas;
guŋgɔŋ and flute
34. before Naa Nyaɣsi, no lunsi drums; drummers followed tindanas with
guŋgɔŋ, yua, and luɣ’ nyini
35. Nanton Lun-Naa: seniority of guŋgɔŋ and yua; Namo-Naa’s version
36. luɣ’ nyini also called luɣ’ yilgu; different from Kambonsi horn and
Hausa alijɛɛta; origin of alijɛɛta in Karaga; luɣ’ nyini at Gushegu
37. yua: typical flute of northern Ghana; still played by Baamaaya and
Jɛra groups, but in some places replaced by white man’s flute
38. guŋgɔŋ the oldest; bataandana the name of ancient guŋgɔŋ and its
drummers; beat and followed tindanas
39. Alhaji Ibrahim
saw bataandana with Nanton Lun-Naa at Damba Festival in Savelugu
40. description of bataandana guŋgɔŋ at Savelugu; how it was beaten
41. modern guŋgɔŋ from Hausas and bataandana; bataandana at Yendi and
Savelugu; now at Tolon only, maybe
42. wooden luŋa and gourd drum compared
43. origin of carved wooden drum from Gurumas and Hausas
44. seniority of guŋgɔŋ, yua, and luɣ’ nyini; why luŋa is their elder
45. tindanas and chiefs; guŋgɔŋ for tindanas; no talks between drummers
Music of the tindanas and chiefs: Ʒɛm
46. Ʒɛm the drumming for tindanas; guŋgɔŋ and yua; Tamale a tindana
47. Ʒɛm the first dance of Dagbamba dances; chiefs collected Ʒɛm from
48. Ʒɛm beaten for installation of Yaa-Naa; also any chief’s
installation or death
49. how Alhaji Ibrahim learned about Ʒɛm and Baŋgumaŋa from Namo-Naa;
the process of greeting and learning
50. the drum language of Ʒɛm; the dancing of Ʒɛm
51. guŋgɔŋ and yua in time of tindanas; no drumming names for tindanas
or early chiefs
52. the talks of Ʒɛm and Baŋgumaŋa are important and guarded; Alhaji
Ibrahim could be blamed for showing it
53. drummers in the time of Naa Nyaɣsi and Bizuŋ; at Kambaŋ Dundolni
near Diari and Yiwɔɣu
Relations of respect between drummers and
54. Naa Nyaɣsi the grandfather of both chiefs and drummers; chiefs call
drummers “my grandfather”; chiefs and drummers are one
55. a drummer as an old person; an old person does not die; knowledge
moves from old person to child
56. unity of chiefs and drummers
57. a quarrel between Yaa-Naa and Namo-Naa is a big thing
58. how Yaa-Naa will beg Namo-Naa if they quarrel
59. the strength of drummers and the house of Namɔɣu; drummers start
beating with “Namɔɣ’ yili mal’ kpiɔŋ kpam!”
60. formerly drummers did not farm; chiefs gave drummers food
61. drummers were not sold as slaves
62. drummers enter a chief’s needing an elder to accompany them; even
princes do not do that
63. respect of drumming; drummers enter everywhere; no chieftaincy
64. drummers and respect: give respect or reduce someone's respect;
chiefs and princes have to be on good terms with drummers
65. the strength of chiefs comes from drummers
The respect of drummers in Dagbon
66. drummers are respected along with chiefs; everywhere people like
drummers, even white people
67. John has respect in Dagbon because of drumming
68. respect is an exchange; a person gets respect who respects himself
and gives respect to others; drumming is about giving respect
Respect and learning drumming
69. need for respect to learn drumming and gets respect from it; Alhaji
Ibrahim “M’ba Luŋa”
70. people want drummers to see them and praise them; drummers show
71. importance of learning from someone who respects drumming; need for
patience when learning
72. drumming was by grandfathers for future generations; drumming a
type of work that does not die; a learned person does not die
73. at Samban’ luŋa, start drumming by praising God and beating
proverbs; drummers thank God for old people
Proverbs and sayings <top
We drummers learn our work with seriousness, and we go to towns.
A person's weakness is from his town, and a person's heaviness is from his
If they call you a monkey, you should let your tail be long.
When someone dies and you go to the funeral house, you talk of death. Where
there is a wedding and you go to the wedding house, you talk of weddings.
When there is a naming and you go, you talk of birth and children..
If you use somebody's name to call a different fellow, the fellow won't
In Dagbon here, when a chief is sitting, or when a patient person is
sitting, he wants to hear of his grandfathers from a drummer.
A person does not praise himself: it is someone who will praise you, not
A human being is made of four parts.
Too much eye-opening brings a lot of foolishness, and our educated Dagbamba
are too wise.
We don’t take someone’s songs to praise another person, because someone’s
grandfather is not another man’s grandfather.
If not because of us drummers, there would be no chiefs in Dagbon.
Without a drummer, there is no chieftaincy.
“There is a drummer and there is a chief”: that is how our tradition is.
It is in chieftaincy that we drummers have strength, and it is in drumming
that a chief has strength.
Wisdom does not die.
Our drumming started with sadness.
If you want to eat any property, it is good you eat it from the door of your
Drumming is like if you enter into water. Anywhere you have to swim around
is just in front of you. And so everyone and his teacher's house.
If you see somebody having a lot of sense, it is because of worries that he
got his sense.
That is the meaning of Namɔɣu: all of you are sucking my breast.
Our talk is dark, and we are standing in darkness.
Iif you want to follow a snake until you see its ears, you will be very
Bizuŋ is every drummer’s grandfather. As Namo-Naa is our grandfather, that
is Bizuŋ’s child.
A Gurunsi man knows the one who buys him.
The one who does bad, it is waiting for his child.
Ŋun tum ka di biɛ, din gul' o bia.
He who does bad, he is the one who will listen with his ear.
Ŋun tum ka di biɛ, ŋun gbili tibli.
When you ask your mother’s child, “Who are you?”: then what of you?
The house of Namogu has strength: plenty!
Namɔɣ’ yili mal’ kpiɔŋ, kpam!
It is drummers who will give someone respect, and it is drummers who will
reduce someone’s importance.
You have to give respect before you will get respect.
It is you who will respect yourself before others will also respect you.
If you take your white heart and give respect to others, your respect will
Our work is not a work that will die. If our grandfathers had not been
there, that would have been all. But our grandfathers were there, and this
drumming started with our grandfathers. If they had thrown it away and let it
fall on the ground, that would have been all. But they have given this
drumming to us. As they are not here again, we are still holding the work
they were doing and the sense that they had. In this world, every person will
die, but wisdom will not die. And so the work we have learned from our
grandfathers, we are holding it well, and we are teaching our children. That
is why they say that a learned person does not die.
An old person does not die.
A seed will bear fruit, and everybody will eat from it.
If God permits and the Holy Prophet agrees, He will give us good sleep to
May God let the wall be nice, and our elders will sit down and will lean
against the wall, and we the children will thank God for that.
Key words for ASCII searches
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Naa Nyagsi (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Shitobu (Naa Shitɔbu)
Drummers and drum chiefs
Ashagu zuu (Ashaɣu zuu)
Bizun zuu (Bizuŋ zuu)
M'ba Lunga (M'ba Luŋa)
Namo-Naa Ashagu (Namo-Naa Ashaɣu)
Namo-Naa Bizun (Namo-Naa Bizuŋ)
Nanton Lun-Naa Iddrisu
Palo-Naa Darizhegu (Palo-Naa Dariʒɛɣu)
Palo-Naa Kosagim (Palo-Naa Kosaɣim)
Zugulana Bim bie ka wuni (Zugulana Bim biɛ ka wuni)
Dakoli n-nye bia (Dakoli n-nyɛ bia)
lug' nyini (luɣ’ nyini)
lug' yilgu (luɣ’ yilgu)
Namog' yili mal' kpion kpam (Namɔɣ' yili mal' kpiɔŋ kpam)
Nun tum ka di bie, din gul' o bia (Ŋun tum ka di biɛ, din gul' o bia)
Nun tum ka di bie, din gul' o seni (Ŋun tum ka di biɛ, din gul' o seni)
Nun tum ka di bie, Nun gbili tibli (Ŋun tum ka di biɛ, ŋun
Samban' luna (Samban’ luŋa)
Tin' kurli (Tiŋ’ kurli)
Towns and places
Kamban Dundolni (Kambaŋ Dundolni)