I-15: Proverbs and Praise-Names
Why Dagbamba like proverbs; what proverbs add to living; how to understand
proverbs; how people use proverbs as names; proverbial names and
“praising”; introduction to the family; how drummers beat
praise-names on their drums; where and how drumers use praise-names; the
role of praising at community gathering; introduction to praise-names and
Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms
Figures and lists
List of dances
discussed in chapters I-15 through I-22 <PDF>
Ibrahim's mother's line: <PDF>
Ibrahim's father's line: <PDF>
a dancer with praise-drumming
and links by paragraph
<top of page>
1. drummers use sense to use proverbs for praise names and dances
2. their characteristics and types
3. meaning is not clear; doing its work involves interpreting it
Examples of proverbs and their meanings
4. example: “if a river is dry”: interpreting the proverb; thinking and asking
5. further explanation of the proverb; extended to someone with knowledge
6. in custom, when give a proverb, do not show its meaning; person has to interpret
7. why give proverbs; proverbs are two talks, different possible meanings
8. example: “people are talking”; two talks or meanings; good and bad
9. further explanation: John's reputation in Dagbon
Proverbs as indirect talk
10. proverbs are not straightforward; need for patience to understand the reference
11. indirect reference: "bury a dead goat"
12. "how is the market is not friendship" refers to greeting
13. "stealing somebody's back" reference to gossiping
14. "gather to bury shea nuts"
15. proverb has many talks inside it; don't want to say something directly
16. indirect talk for something you are shy to say
Proverbs make talk sweet
17. proverb adds to talks
18. proverbs give long thoughts; people like long thoughts
19. proverbs show people sense
20. the sense of proverbs can give a warning or advice; help people live correctly
21. proverbs are for people with sense; have to hold the meaning
Drummers and proverbs
22. drummers have proverbs; their sense started from worries and sadness as orphans
23. drummers use proverbs to praise people, as a name to fit the person
24. the name helps people know more about a person
Examples of praise names
25. example: how a proverb might apply to someone
26. Nama-Naa Issahaku's name
27. Alhaji Ibrahim's names
How praise names are beaten
28. name can be spoken, sung, or beaten on drum; the drum can imitate the language
29. many people can recognize their names when beaten on a drum
30. drummers learn praising; different ways to beat names; singing while beating is difficult
31. in addition to language, drumming has meaning in the reason why it is beaten
Learning to hear drum language
32. people can ask to know the meaning of the drumming
33. people learn to hear drumming talks to different extents; some chiefs learn it gradually; chiefs like Tolon-Naa Yakubu and Nanton-Naa Alaasani hear well because are close to drummers
34. chiefs can learn it as princes; befriend and sit with drummers
35. how a prince befriends a drummer to learn more
36. the prince meets the drummer quietly in the night; doesn’t talk about what he learns
37. a prince does not show his knowledge in public
38. if such a prince becomes a chief, might even correct a drummer
39. differences among chiefs; many do not know much; elders sit near and help them
40. Alhaji Ibrahim wants John to learn to beat proverbs and to write down the drumming
Drumming in Hausa and Dagbani
41. many proverbs are beaten as names; Hausa (Taachi) and Dagbani
42. examples: Hausa and Dagbani versions of the same proverbs
43. Dagbamba proverbs that are beaten on a drum
44. Hausa proverbs that are beaten on a drum
The benefits of praise names
45. proverbial names enhance a person and also enhance the culture
46. a name can hold a person back; drummers will correct it
47. drummers praise a person with the grandfather’s name; enlightening
Praise names and family
48. proverbs are old talks; proverbs are with everybody
49. drummers keep alive the names of dead people within a family
50. drummers know people’s families; family compared to a tree
Praise names and chieftaincy
51. every Dagbana has a relationship to a line of chieftaincy
52. a commoner comes from a chieftaincy line that has separated
53. all Dagbamba have some relation to Yaa-Naa; even typical Dagbamba from Naa Niŋmitooni
54. the “children” of Naa Nyaɣsi were not all his actual children
55. if a prince marries a commoner, the child can become a chief
56. chieftaincy lines mix and separate; many ways; can go to far ancestor, like drummers to Naa Nyaɣsi
57. Alhaji’s mother’s side is Naa Siɣli; no longer a door to Yendi
58. everyone is a chief’s grandchild; examples: Naa Zoli, Savelugu-Naa Mahami
How drummers praise within a family
59. when drummers praise people, they start with grandfather’s name; show person’s family line
60. praise a commoner with praise-name of a chief; all the chiefs have lines; people know to varying extents
61. drummers’ work: praising and showing the family; makes people happy; get money as gift
62. family can be traced to different origins; example: Alhaji Ibrahim from Savelugu and Voggo
Praise names and knowledge of a family
64. drummers know a person’s family to varying extents; compared to levels of schooling
65. people learn about their family lines from praising
66. praising and drumming always related to chieftaincy; chiefs and drummers are one
67. the old talks (history) are behind both the chieftaincy and the drumming; not written
Praising at gatherings
68. example: praising at a funeral house
69. how drummers praise people with proverbial names; excites people
70. example: man who killed his horse when praised
71. at gatherings, drummers use praise to invite people to dance; dancers receive money from friends and relatives; drummers collect it
72. gatherings are ways to help one another; go to funerals to support people; money makes support visible
73. the giving of money, from talking truths about gathers and grandfathers
74. people are happy at gatherings; hearing the good names of their forefathers
75. when drummers don’t recognize someone; example: Nyohinilana Pakpɔŋ pointed out to drummers, who then praised her
76. people show themselves to the drummers
77. other people will tell the drummers about a person; this showing oneself is not like bluffing
78. gathering place: people get to know one another and their families
79. drummers also show the lower status of some people
80. drummers can show the high standing of a quiet or shy person
81. drummers show family relationships by using the same praises for different people
82. sometimes relatives didn’t know their relationship unless drummers show them
Praising and sense
83. drummers find appropriate names for people
84. drummers use their knowledge to turn praise-drumming to dance beats
85. Naa Mahamadu’s names
86. using a name for dancing; can dance to a forefather’s name
87. drummers have a lot of sense
Sayings <top of page>
It is proverbs a person takes to do work.
If the river is dry, it is a shame to God.
“It doesn't matter”: it matters.
People are asking about you.
A proverb is not a straightforward talk.
If your house goat dies, it is not you who is going to skin it.
It is because of a live goat that they bury a dead goat.
It is because of a live hunchback that they bury a dead hunchback.
“How is your market” is not friendship.
“Welcome from the market” does not mean friendship.
When you are stealing somebody's back, you should look at your back.
If many of you gather to bury shea nuts, if you go to remove them, it is
good that many of you go.
If you gather and bury shea nuts, it is good you gather again to remove
A proverb is one talk, but it has many talks.
A fool is not a blind person.
Don't bury me and leave the legs.
Proverbs make talk sweet.
Proverbs add sense to our talks.
Proverbs add to our way of living, and they add sense, and the give us long
A person should think long thoughts and put them down for those
Everybody wants long thoughts, and that is the way of proverbs.
Proverbs are for everybody, and proverbs are for the person who has
A white horse is not an old horse.
If you see a person having a lot of sense, you should know that it is worry
he has taken to get the sense.
What God has put down.
God has commanded and put something down, and what will you say? You
will say, “It will do.”
If your neighbor buys something and it pains you, you should also go and buy
yours; it's in the store.
If your friend buys something and it pains you, you should also buy
it: it is in the store.
A fool doesn't know that things change.
A foolish person doesn't know that things change, but a sensible person
knows that things change.
What a human being refuses, God will take it and make it well.
A fool has no one; beat him and you will see.
A rich man befriends a poor man; God gives a gift to one who does not have.
If they say you cannot do anything, something has not come to you.
They say you cannot do anything; anything has not come to you.
No matter how sweet soup is, if you don't take some salt and add it, the
soup is going to be a useless soup.
A lizard hides, and the head is red.
If your fellow person is crying and you are laughing, tomorrow you too will
If you come to cross a river where there are oyster shells, it is better to
be careful how you walk in the water than to divert your way.
Your mouth talks too much, and so what is the use of you?
They hate me and told lies about me.
To fear trouble is better than to say, "What can they do to me?"
A broom is not in the house, and the compound is dirty.
What a cat sees and hides, if a dog sees it, everyone will hear of it.
What a cat will see and keep quiet, if a dog sees it, he will come and beat
Water that lies still is bad water.
Someone who has horns cannot enter a hole.
A tree that stands in mud doesn't fear water.
Believing in God is better than believing in somebody.
What can ants do to a stone?: only lick it.
Different talks spoil a town; gather-and-say will repair a town.
How a family is, it is like a tree standing outside with many
Inside every commoner is the strength of chieftaincy, and the strength of
chieftaincy is the commoner.
An ex-serviceman does not keep away from the barracks.
If we drummers were not in Dagbon here, by now the family would have been
It is in chieftaincy that we drummers have strength, and it is in drumming
that a chief has strength.
We drummers and the chiefs are just like a calabash and its lid.
It is at the gathering place you have to show yourself and people will
If a woman has no buttocks but has beads, someone who has got buttocks
cannot collect the beads from her.
The person who doesn't have life is the one who cannot do something.
Patience gets everything, but annoyance gets nothing.
They are late, and nothing is there.
Tomorrow is medicine.
Key words for ASCII
searches <top of page>
Naa Abila Bila
Naa Andani Jengbarga (Naa Andani Jɛŋgbarga)
Naa Kulunku (Naa Ziblim Kulunku)
Naa Mahama Kpema (Naa Mahama Kpɛma)
Naa Ninmitooni (Naa Niŋmitooni)
Naa Nyagsi (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Sigli (Naa Siɣli)
Naa Simaani (Naa Simaani Zoli)
Naa Tutugri (Naa Tutuɣri)
Naa Zolgu (Naa Zɔlgu)
Naa Zagli (Naa Zaɣli)
Naa Ziblim Bandamda
Naa Ziblim Kulunku (Naa Kulunku)
Naa Zoli (Naa Simaani Zoli)
Other titled persons
Nyohinilana Pakpon (Nyohihilana Pakpɔŋ)
Savelugu-Naa Bukari Kantampara
Proverbs and names
A kpee yi da ka di bier' a feere ni (A kpee yi da ka di biɛr' a
A kpee yi kumdi ka a lara a gba sa ni kum biegu (A kpee yi kumdi ka a
lara a gba sa ni kum biɛɣu)
A noli yagiya a bukaata (A noli yaɣiya a bukaata)
Abura kafu beeshika laami
Be je ma mi nmo m-pa ma pa la simli a mi nyin' da di be feere ni (Bɛ
jɛ ma mi ŋmo m-pa ma pa la simli a mi nyin' da di be feere ni)
Be yi ye' ni a ku nin sheli sheli m-bi paag'a (Bɛ yi yɛ' ni a ku
niŋ shɛli shɛli m-bi paag'a)
Be yoli yelgu (Bɛ yoli yɛlgu)
Be yoli yelgu ka sheli kani (Bɛ yoli yɛlgu ka shɛli
Bundana lagi nandan' zori Naawuni ti kalana pini (Bundana laɣi
nandan' zori Naawuni ti kalana pini)
Jenkuno yi nya sheli ka zan sogi baa nun' yi nya li sokam wumdimi baa nun'
yi nya o nmer moli
(Jɛnkuno yi nya shɛli ka zaŋ
sɔɣi baa ŋun' yi nya li sokam wumdimi baa ŋun' yi nya o
Jergu zhi ni yela tagra (Jɛrgu ʒi ni yɛla taɣra)
Jergu ka so nmen' o ka a nya (Jɛrgu ka so ŋmɛn' o ka a
Kom do chichi ko' biegu m-bala (Kom dɔ chichi ko' biɛɣu
N danwanka yi naa kuuka ka naa dalia goobe kee ma kaa kuuka
"N'a daa" pa la simli
Ninsal' nun kon yevili nun nku tooi nin sheli (Ninsal' ŋun
kɔŋ yɛvili ŋun nku tooi nin shɛli)
Ninsal' ni zagsi sheli ka Naawuni pihi m-maanda (Ninsal' ni zaɣsi
shɛli ka Naawuni pihi m-maanda)
Nyirkogulana m-mali o limli so bi deera (Nyirkɔɣulana m-mali
o limli so bi deera)
Sogu ka yina ka dundon tari (Sɔɣu ka yiŋa ka
Suglo mal' nyori sul' ka sheli (Suɣlo mal' nyori sul' ka
Yeda Allah yaafi yedan koowa (Yɛda Allah yaafi yɛdan koowa)
Yaayaa kuda kan yi da duusi shee laasa
Yitaache fadama bee sooro lua
Zom' yela n-gari be ni nin a bo (Zɔm' yɛla n-gari bɛ ni
niŋ a bɔ)
Zama kulga banmi sigibu n-gari logbu (Zama kulga baŋmi
siɣibu n-gari loɣbu)
Musical terms and drum chiefs
Names and people
Towns and places
Holy Prophet Muhammad
Naa Nyagsi bia (Naa Nyaɣsi bia)