A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter I-14:  How a Drum Is Beaten  <PDF file>

Technique and style; innovation and tradition; the right wrist and quickness; the right hand and the left hand in beating; talking on a drum and using the left hand; beating coolly and beating with strength; changing styles and steadiness; examples

Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms

Supplementary material

[photos forthcoming]

Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>

Basic techniques:  left and right hands

1.    drummers have different ways of holding a drum
2.    using the left arm on the strings
3.    right hand must be quick, but left hand also has to work; on guŋgɔŋ, the left hand must press lightly to work the chahara
4.    the left wrist talks for the heart
5.    the left hand:  differences among drummers in how clearly they can be understood; cool the heart and cool the arm
6.    right hand must be flexible; zambaŋa (cat) medicine
7.    beating too fast is not good; start slowly
8.    right hand (stick) should be a bit fast and left hand slow; help to change the sound

Training:  continuity from teacher to student

9.    drummers have different hands (ways of beating)
10.    someone’s beating resembles the one who taught him
11.    need patience to progress far and correctly in drumming; contrast two guŋgɔŋ beaters:  Alhassan Ibrahim and Abdulai (Seidu) the Boxer
12.    need patience both to teach properly and to learn

Foundation:  take a gradual approach to teaching

13.    teaching should be gradual, step by step
14.    John’s beating; John should use experience or learning to overcome lack of flexibility in his wrist
15.    John trying to learn many dances too quickly; Alhaji Ibrahim would have wanted to teach only three dances as a foundation
16.    drumming compared to reading; use the basic foundation to learn other dances quickly
17.    after learning, the increase in styles (variations) comes from experience

Adding to experience by listening and watching

18.    learning drumming comes with time, if the drummer wants to learn
19.    learn, listen to others, learn their style
20.    to learn, join lumbɔbli (supporting drums) and listen to the lead drum or the guŋgɔŋ
21.    cannot join other drummers if don’t know what to beat
22.    therefore, join the lumbɔbli and listen to hear styles
23.    when you start learning, your drumming seems weak because you don’t know much; need to add knowledge; John should continue his practices

Using a good drum to learn

24.    one can know a good drummer from the sound of the drum
25.    use a good drum to teach; help in learning; if use a bad drum, one cannot hear the sound well

Variations and styles

26.    styles and ways of beating can make one dance seem to be different dances
27.    comparing Alhaji Ibrahim’s beating to Adam Iddi (Adambila); Adam can beat fast to make the dance hot, but Alhaji is better
28.    Adam has not traveled or learned many styles; his drumming is one-sided
29.    if know many types of dance-drumming and praise-drumming, can change to play differently; Adam plays fast and hard, only good for some times

Training:  correcting a student

30.    one beats the way one has learned
31.    only a senior drummer will correct a drummer who makes mistakes
32.    some drummers accept correction; others do not

Training:  teacher needs respect

33.    one needs a good teacher; example:  Arts Council and schools don’t pay well and cannot get good teachers
34.    the schools are not serious that the students learn properly

Comparing the drumming of young people and older people

35.    students beat and dance too fast and too roughly
36.    old people who know how to dance do it smoothly
37.    drummers beat and follow the feet of the dancer
38.    young people overdo the dance and rush

Drumming should follow the dance and the dancer

39.    drumming has different ways; have to follow the dancers
40.    different drumming styles come from different dancers; villagers, men, women; townspeople have more changes
41.    differences between townsperson and villager; village drummers beat better for village dancers
42.    town drummers are better because they beat more often; more events; helps for remembering
43.    at a gathering, everyone dances, even those who don't know how; one can see the ones who dance better

Changes in drumming to follow dancers:  coolness and “showing oneself”

44.    drumming styles:  some are talking and some are according to the specific dance; older drummers change styles slowly, "curve" the dance
45.    social gathering:  individual dances (like Naɣbiɛɣu or Naanigoo); drummers follow personal choices
46.    drummer should not change too much or mix dances; have to beat according to the dancer
47.    changing from one dance to another is different from changing styles in one dance
48.    dancers shouldn't dance too many dances
49.    different styles inside one dance; addition, or increase
50.    adding style by showing oneself; add personal expression; example:  Nantoo Nimdi
51.    sometimes need to beat hard to make the drumming strong for the dancers
52.    sometimes need to beat coolly
53.    whether cool or strong, drumming has to follow the dancing; beating with sense; older drummers are better because of experience
54.    differences:  villagers don't change much, students try to change too much; changes should be clear
55.    young drummers are not cool

Example:  Takai

56.    Takai should be danced coolly, slowly, and smoothly
57.    Takai:  play without changing until dancers make full circle and knock the iron rods
58.    drummers wait to change; follow the dancers' sticks
59.    the changes of styles have to follow one another and match the dancers' movements

Following the dancers

60.    drummers know individual dancers and can drum to fit his or her dance
61.    with new dancer, change drumming until find styles that fit; drumming compared to having sex

Changing styles:  listening, continuity and resemblance

62.    best drumming:  follows dancers and curves the beating; changes should follow clearly
63.    successive styles should resemble and follow one another
64.    advice to John:  to improve, listen to the current style to get ideas for changing
65.    how some styles from different dances resemble each other; have to know differences; example:  Takai and Kondalia
66.    adding proverbs or names to fit the beating of the dance; how to introduce the styles clearly
67.    respect the drumming; if a current style sounds nice, can continue to beat it

Knowledge and patience in drumming

68.    people respect John's drumming because he doesn't make mistakes
69.    experience:  clear sound, beat correctly, use patience with styles, avoid fatigue with knowledge
70.    changing:  don't think to choose from repertoire of knowledge instead should listen and find resemblance
71.    changing:  don't change too quickly
72.    drumming proverbs that serve as advice to John
73.    health and patience are key to anyone's achievements
74.    example:  cleaning the drum strings (lundihi); importance of patience
75.    better to travel and actually learn something
76.    Alhaji Ibrahim has seen John's patience

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

A drum is like a woman.

Selling a dog is not good. 

You cannot stand up and weave. 

Learning is from the heart:  you have to want the thing you are doing.

When you want to beat the drum and you start it. it looks as if you are joking; when you do it, it looks as if the drumming is a weak thing.

“Get my child” and “Get my work.”

“I have come to learn something” is different from “I have come and heard something.”

When you suffer to get something, you hold it very well.

You are not at the back, and you are not at the front, too.  You are at the center.

Beating a drum wants today and tomorrow.

The one who dances too much doesn't see praise.

The prince of one town is a slave in another town. 

God takes somebody who has a big house and puts him in a small house. 

When you leave your town, if you were a very bad child from your town, you should have in mind that the town you are going to, there are other children there who are more bad than you.  And if you are a very good person, you must again know that the town you are going to, there are people who are better than you in character, and you will be equal to some people in character, and some people will be worse than you in character.

When you go to a place to learn anything, if you have sense, you should be patient. 

If you are patient, to collect something and put it into your mouth is not a problem. 

When you are leaving your town, you have to leave what you have there and pretend as if you don’t know anything.

In this world, sickness and death are the bad things against a person. 

Whenever a person has patience, and he has life, and he is not sick, whatever he wants in this world, he will get it. 

If you have health and patience, you will gain something which you were not expecting to gain.  He who is watchful of these two ideas, he will be observing what is happening around him. 

Only someone who has no experience will gain something and say he has gained nothing. 

If you send the child of the bat to go and bring a shea nut from the shea tree, and it goes and keeps long, it is better than to send a child of a bat to bring the shea nut and it only stays away a very short time without bringing any fruit. 

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Musical terms
Dibs' ata
Gonja Damba
gungon  (guŋgɔŋ)
lumbobli  (lumbɔbli)
Nagbiegu  (Naɣbiɛɣu)
Nantoo Nimdi
Nyagboli  (Nyaɣboli)
Wawari biegulana bi nyari kpalinga  (Wawari biɛɣulana bi nyari kpaliŋa)
Zambanga  (Zambaŋa)
Zhim Taai Kurugu  (Ʒim Taai Kurugu)
Ziblim and Andani

Names and people
Abdulai (Seidu)
Alhassan (Ibrahim)
Fatawu (Ibrahim)
Adambila (Small Adam) [Adam Iddi]

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms
mpahiya (pahi)
yiring  (yiriŋ)