A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter I-17:  How a Person Should Dance  <PDF file>

The relationship of dancing and drumming; differences in styles of dancing; differences between men’s and women’s dancing; how people learn dancing; aesthetics of good dancing

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

Supplementary material


Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  overview:  the starting of different dances
2.  dances are not grouped, such as for women or men; drummers beat all dances
3.  there is dancing at many occasions

Benefits of dancing

4.  dancing shows happiness; even at final funerals; drumming but no dancing during burial time
5.  some burials have no drumming; Kulunsi after return to house; praising; dancing at final funeral; exceptions
6.  dancing especially for old person’s funeral; happiness for long life
7.  dancing and happiness go together
8.  dancing makes a town good; increases a town’s name

Dancing styles and projection of character

9.  different styles of dancing add to the dance; make it nice, reflect happiness and cool heart
10.  the dance shows the heart of the person
11.  dancing with respect; patience and coolness
12.  different types of dancing reflect different types of human personalities
13.  showing oneself; project coolness, happiness, and self-respect
14.  dancing is a choice; what the heart wants
15.  example:  at market show part and hide part of what you sell; or who you are; preserves respect

Dancing movements

16.  dancing:  good to dance coolly, with respect and patience; not roughly
17.  no particular meaning to movements; try to follow traditional precedents; acknowledge elders
18.  respect tradition with dress
19.  good dancers dress dance appropriately to the drumming and the dance itself; don’t mix styles
20.  older people know tradition; dance better than young people
21.  older people have more knowledge of traditional significance
22.  experience and knowledge make the dancing nice

Dancers and drummers

23.  experience:  it is good to know the dance and learn it well
24.  the dancer can follow the beating of the guŋgɔŋ
25.  dancer can also engage the drummer; drummer can help the dancer
25.  Nakɔhi-waa originally had movement from drummer; now some other dances

Learning dancing

26.  can learn dancing from watching and not from asking
27.  try to dance to resemble an admired dancer one has watched
28.  when people are dancing, people look at them
29.  can learn dancing by watching and listening
30.  styles of movement from the type of dance; some dancers don’t have many styles

Dancing of chiefs and commoners

31.  Damba does not have many styles; movements reflect chieftaincy
32.  formerly the commoners did not have dance circles as at today’s gatherings
33.  formerly an offense for commoner to dress or dance like a chief
34.  modern days, the chiefs and commoners are closer
35.  modern times are good for drummers because life is easier
36.  people know one another’s standing at the gathering place
37.  when a person dances, drummers show the family; the dance should reflect relationship to ancestors

Dancing of princes

38.  showing oneself in dancing is not bluffing; but princes don’t show themselves
39.  princes put limits on dances and styles
40.  different dancing styles for a prince who gets chieftaincy; will not hide
41.  differences in dancing of chief, commoner, prince

Dancing and styles

42.  the beating shows which dances have styles, but styles are not as important as dancer’s projections
43.  cool dancing is interesting, but should follow the drums; make the dance look nice
44.  dancer follows the beating; follows the guŋgɔŋ and all drums together
45.  drummers can show dancer how to move; makes the dance nicer for everyone
46.  change dances when drumming changes; different tribes dance with different parts of body
47.  dancing mainly in the legs; use of arms in Nakɔhi-waa
48.  Nakɔhi-waa is difficult; sometimes Nakɔhi-waa dancer’s arms are just adding movement; Naanigoo is nice without many styles
49.  drummers adjust beating to individual dancer’s movements

Men’s and women’s dancing

50.  women also dance in Dagbon
51.  differences in men’s and women’s dancing from the body; women more discreet
52.  woman’s body is loose, can move faster; man has more strength
53.  man dances, turns, and shows smock; women show beauty
54.   women dance with more shyness; feet in and out; Zamanduniya good for women
55.  women’s arm movements in Damba, Naɣbiɛɣu, Naanigoo; foot movements in Nakɔhi-waa

Dancing and tribal styles

56.  Damba movements
57.  Mamprusi dance movements


58.  dances are different; people call both drummers and goonji groups
59.  transition to group dances

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

Where you see people dancing, it means there is no sorrow there. 

Truly, it is happiness that is the dance. 

If there is a town and you don’t have people who dance, the town becomes weak. 

If there is a town and there are no dances, it is not a good town. 

Salt does not praise itself. 

When you dance beautifully, it shows that your heart is cool and that your heart is lying down. 

To dance with respect:  you hold yourself coolly, and you don’t laugh too much, but you laugh. 

Somebody who keeps quiet is not a fool, and somebody who talks too much is not a mad person.

As they [the drummers] have brought you out in the public, they have shown your respect, and when you stand up to come out and dance, you are showing yourself. 

If you want to do any work that concerns a group or people watching, you shouldn’t tie your face. 

You can take cold water and cook somebody, but if you take hot water to cook somebody, he will run away and leave you. 

When you are dancing, you should cool your heart, and you should not tie your face. 

The dance you are dancing, it is your heart that wants that dance; that’s why you are dancing it. 

Showing yourself, on the part of dancing, and what I have told you, it means that you don’t have to give your whole self or all your secrets out.  You have to show it and also hide part of it.

It is a human being who will respect himself before the town respects him.

The dance you dance until the next morning, you don’t shake yourself very hard.

Dancing coolly makes the dance more beautiful,

How we look at it, beauty is on the part of when you have seen something and it makes your heart happy.

The work you grow up to meet, that is the work you also do. 

Don't cook your soup and then put honey inside it. 

As for the work of the eye, you don’t ask questions again, because the eye has seen it. 

When you see something, it is better than your ear hearing it. 

The tradition is what adds more to someone’s dancing. 

Shyness and pride:  these two things are within a human being. 

A person’s style in dancing comes from his way of living, that is, the heart or the character.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Naa Yenzoo
Naa Zanjina

Musical terms
goonji, goonjis
gungon  (guŋgɔŋ)
lunga  (luŋa)
Nagbiegu  (Naɣbiɛɣu)
Nakohi-waa  (Nakɔhi-waa)
Nantoo Nimdi
Tora  (Tɔra)
Zhim Taii Jurugu  (Ʒim Taai Kurugu)

Names and people
Holy Prophet
Holy Prophet Muhammad

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms
jengbarga  (jɛŋgbarga)
Mouth-tying month
suhu pielli  (suhu piɛlli)
suhu sogimbo  (suhu soɣimbo)
Water-drinking month
zhim  (ʒim)