A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter I-22:  How Children Are Trained in Drumming and Singing   <PDF file>

Types of toy drums for children; first proverbs; how a child is taught to sing; discipline; children who are “born” with the drum; a child who was trained by dwarves; learning the chiefs; learning to sing; performing; how young drummers respect their teachers; obligations to teachers; teaching and learning

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

Supplementary material


child playing toy drum (giŋgaɣinyɔɣu)
young boys drumming Takai
other photos

(Use player for 192kbit/s.  For older browsers or limited bandwith, click on link to play at 64kbit/s in separate window.)

Dakoli N-Nye Bia

Dakoli N-Nye Bia representative song text:

Dakoli n-nyɛ bia; ka paɣalana n-nyɛ kpɛma.
A bachelor is a child; a married person is senior.
[paɣalana: a person who holds a wife]

Ŋum mal' lana ŋun' di, Mbayee Namlana; ŋun ka lana ŋun' di di, mbayee Namlana. 
The person who has someone to hold him will eat, My God; a person who has no one to look after him will not eat.  My God! 
[Mbaye: an exclamation; Namlana:  Owner of chieftaincy (God)]

Dakoli n-nyɛ bia, mbayee, namlana.  [as above]
Paɣalana n-nyɛ kpɛma, mbayee, namlana.  [as above]
Ŋum' mal' lana, ŋun' di, mbayee, namlana. [as above]

Ŋun ka lana, ŋun' ʒiya, mbayee, namlana.
The person who has no owner (should) sit down.  My God!

Ŋum' mal' lana, ŋun' di, mbayee, namlana. [as above]

Ŋun kɔŋ, ŋun' ʒiya, mbayee, namlana.
The one who has not, he (should) sit down, mbayee, namlana.

Ŋun yɛ' ni Naawuni pa Naa, mbayee, namlana,
The one who says God is not Chief, My God,

ŋun' lihim' o tooni, ka lih' o nyaaŋa, ka baŋ ni Wuni saɣi Naa, namlana.
he should look at his front and look at his back, and know God is Chief.
[front: ancestors; back: descendants]

Ŋun yɛ' ni Naawuni pa Naa, mbayee, namlana [as above]

O zaŋ m' bim' muni, ka baŋ di puuni yɛlli, namlana
He should take a round thing and know what is inside it.  My God.

Ŋun yɛ' ni Naawuni pa Naa, mbayee, Namlana [as above]
The one who says that God is not Chief,

O zaŋm' shigbaŋ baŋ di tooni, ka baŋ di nyaaŋa,
Ka baŋ ni Wuni saɣi Naa, Naadirgu.
He should take a honeycomb and know its front and its back.
And know that God is God, eater of (the One who has) Chieftaincy

Ŋun yɛ' ni Naawuni pa Naa, mbayee, Namlana [as above]
The one who says that God is not God,

O zaŋm' tan' yini m-baŋ di nimbiɛri.
He should take a piece of cloth and know its wrong side (bad eyes).

Ka pa Naawuni, ka ŋuni?
And not God, and Who?

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun zaŋ tinshee nabia n-zaŋ lɛbi tinshee dabli
Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun zaŋ tinshee dabli n-zaŋ lɛbi tinshee nabia
He is the one who takes one town's prince and makes him another town's slave.
He is the one who takes one town's slave and makes him another town's prince.

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun zaŋ paɣba piilana n-zaŋ lɛbi dakoli.
N-zaŋ dakoli zaŋ lɛbi paɣba piilana.
He is the one who takes someone with ten wives and makes him a bachelor,
And takes a bachelor and makes him a man with ten wives.

N-zaŋ yil' titalilana zaŋ lɛb' yil' bililana,
N-zaŋ yil' bililana zaŋ lɛb' yil' titalilana.
And takes a large-house owner and makes him a small-house owner
And takes a small-house owner and makes him a large-house owner

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun nam saɣimlan' bia,
k'o ti lan doli n-vɛhir' o tab' ŋmana.
He is the one who makes a food-owners' child
and he then lets him eat left-over food from his fellow man's dishes (calabash).

Ka pa Naawuni, ka ŋuni? [as above]
And not God, and Who? 

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun nam bundan' bia n-zaŋ o zaŋ lɛb' faralana,
N-zaŋ faralan' bii zaŋ lɛb' bundana.
The one who creates a rich man's child and takes him to make a poor man.
And takes a poor man's child and makes him a rich man.

Ka pa Naawuni, ka ŋuni? [as above]
And not God, and Who?

Lumbil' zaŋ lundoli niŋ o nuu ni, he ŋmɛri ka kumdi Naawuni, namlana.
A small drummer takes his drumstick in his hand, and beats and cries God, the Chief of chiefs

Kakpari bii zaŋ sɔglaa niŋ o nuu ni, o kɔri ka kumdi Naawuni, namlana.
A farmer's child takes a hoe in his hand, he farms and cries God, the Chief of chiefs

Wɔrbar' bii zaŋ galgbaŋ' niŋ o nuu ni, o bari ka kumdi Naawuni, namlana.
A horse rider's child takes reins in his hand, he rides and cries God, the Chief of chiefs

Tɔhi-Naa bii zaŋ tɔbu liŋgbun kpɛ mɔɣu sunsuuni, o tɔri ka kumdi Naawuni, namlana.
The chief hunter's child takes a bow and enters the bush, he shoots and cries God, the Chief of chiefs.

Afabil' zaŋ kariŋ gbaŋ niŋ o nuu ni, o karindi ka kumdi Naawuni namlana.
A small maalam takes paper in his hand, he reads and cries God, the Chief of chiefs.

Gummir' bii zaŋ gummuu niŋ o nuu ni, o miri ka kumdi Naawuni, namlana.
A cotton-spinner's child takes a spindle in his hand, he spins and cries God, the Chief of chiefs

Sokamo kumsi bi lɔɣi Naawuni kpiɔŋlana.
Everyone's crying does not leave out (miss) God, the One with strength.

Ka Ŋuni?
And Who

Shiri la Namlana!
Truly, it is God! (the Owner of Chieftaincy)

N Duuma Naawuni tumd' o kpiɔŋ tuma.
My Lord God does his work of strength.

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun nam zoli, zoli yaa ka dubu m-biɛri ginda.
He is the one who creates a mountain that cannot be climbed or passed.

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun nam sala n-nam' o zuɣu n-tabl' o nina.
He is the one who makes a person and makes his head and his eyes.

Ŋun' nyɛ ŋun nam sala n-nam' o nuhi n-tabl' o baɣri.
He is the one who makes man and makes his hands and his arms.

Ka pa Naawuni, ka ŋuni? [as above]
And not God, and Who?

Shiri la Namlana!  [as above]
Truly, it is God!

Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  transition to other talks of drumming

Drumming and family

2.  drumming moves through family
3.  a drummer’s son not forced to drum, but one son of a daughter must drum

Training a young child

4.  how a drummer beats his drum when his wife brings forth
5.  at three or four years old, child gets giŋgaɣinyɔɣu, a small drum, to play; no training
6.  by six to eight, gets lunnyiriŋga, smaller than lumbila; begins to learn
7.  accompanies drummers; carries drums; picks up money given to drummers and dancers
8.  begin teaching with Dakɔli n-nyɛ bia and Namɔɣ’ yil’ mal’ k-piɔŋ
9.  by twelve or thirteen, has used sense to learn what the drummers beat and sing
10.  the child learns his own family line and praises
11.  from the child’s grandfathers to father; will learn in six months to a year
12.  young drummer goes in night to other drummers to learn more; praise songs; presses his teacher’s legs
13.  some children do not need much teaching
14.  some children do not learn well; knocked with drum stick
15.  formerly, more forcing to learn; more serious; now people less willing to suffer
16.  Alhaji Ibrahim trained by Lun-Naa Iddrisu and M’ba Sheni; how Sheni talked to him

Training by dwarves

17.  child can be trained by dwarves; example:  Namɔɣu-Wulana Zakari
18.  how Zakari was lost in the farm
19.  the search for Zakari; the soothsayer’s advice; the funeral of Zakari
20.  Zakari found eight months later in the farm; would not speak
21.  medicine man treated Zakari; Zakari singing; he said he was kept by dwarves in a hole
22.  Zakari a great drummer and singer; never tired; different from other drummers

Teaching young drummers

23.  at fourteen to sixteen, get lundaa; begin learning Jɛŋgbari bɔbgu
24.  the meaning of Jɛŋgbari bɔbgu
25.  the proverbial names of the Yendi chiefs
26.  next learn the chiefs of other towns like Savelugu, Mion, and so on
27.  how the young drummers demonstrate the extent of their knowledge
28.  should learn both to sing and to beat the drum
29.  from sixteen to eighteen is when he can learn and retain knowledge


30.  young child must continue to sing through puberty or his voice will reduce
31.  singing voices are different; voice should be clear that people hear and understand
32.  how drummers work to improve singing; also use medicine
33.  not all drummers know singing or people’s lines; but must know beating

Learning comes from the heart

34.  someone who has no interest doesn’t learn well
35.  some drummers cannot beat on their own; need others to beat
36.  need patience and interest to learn; learning is in the heart
37.  must hear the sound of the drum; think about how the sound is coming

Traveling to towns to learn from other drummers

38.  by twenty-one or twenty-two, learn to the extent of beating Samban’ luŋa; may or may not perform
39.  go around to towns to learn from different drummers; differences in knowledge
40.  stay in drummer’s house; farm and work for him; learn in the night
41.  to learn about some chiefs or some talks requires animal sacrifices
42.  when go to another drummer, act as if do not know; only add his knowledge
43.  some drummers only teach; some use lundaa to teach

The importance of being taught

44.  some drummers do not go around to learn; only use their sense; comparison to Baamaaya drummers
45.  someone who was taught is better than someone using sense to beat (self-taught)
46.  beating with sense cannot go far; but someone who was taught can add sense
47.  the one who was taught knows the ways of drumming; limitations of the one beating with sense

Beating the different sizes of drums

48.  drummers can only learn their extent; compared to their progression among different drums
49.  comparing the different drums for praising
50.  drummers choose and get used to the drum they like to beat
51.  someone who beats lundɔɣu cannot beat lundaa the same way; lundɔɣu seems heavy to a lundaa drummer; lundaa and lumbila need more energy

Developing into maturity

52.  can learn singing; personal styles of the voice comparable to styles of drumming
53.  people show different sides of themselves when drumming or singing
54.  no charge when going around to learn; give gift when finished; share the benefits
55.  need patience to learn; don’t hurry; learn drumming well to receive the benefits of drumming
56.  the responsibilities of teaching; need to continue learning

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

Talks enter one another.

A bachelor is a child,  and a married person is an elder.  [See Dakoli N-Nye Bia song text above]

The one who has someone to look after him will eat; the one who has no one holding him will not eat.

The one who says there is no God, he should look behind and look forward.

The one who says there is no God should look at the bee’s wax and know its inside and outside.

The house of Namɔɣu has strength, plenty!

Everybody has his door to enter into one house. 

Many mice have gathered and they are preparing bells:  who is going to put the bells on the cat? 

You cannot talk about drumming and not call the names of the chiefs. 

If you are going to talk about drumming in Dagbon, you have to call the names of the chiefs, because the chiefs and the drummers are one.

if you are holding something, you want the way and means so that it will increase. 

It’s in his heart; it’s not in his mouth.

My grandfather is outside.

Learning is from the heart. 
Learning is within the heart. 

You have to be patient to learn drumming.  It takes time. 

It is the heart that does the work, and the ears too will be listening and see whether it is falling.

Any time you are beating drums, all your mind should be inside the beating.

The way we beat, we beat with thinking. 

If your heart is not sweet, even if you take a good thing, it will turn to be a bad thing. 

It is white heart that does work.  That is why I say that learning is in the heart. 

Everyone learns drumming with what his own heart wants.

It isn’t only in your town that you learn drumming. 

God should cover Bizuŋ’s anus,

If you say, “I have already known it; I already know”:  that will not give a human being wisdom. 

Drumming is:  “I don’t know.” 

Every knowledge is supposed to have a father.

Drumming has no end, and nobody learns all of it.  Everybody will only learn to his extent.

A person who doesn’t talk is not a fool, and someone who talks a lot is not a wise person.

If you say you don't want trouble and a trouble-maker comes to meet you, whatever happens, he will cause you trouble. 

The one who asks is the person who makes the one he asks to know more. 

Anyone who is a learned person wants the one who asks. 

Somebody who teaches also learns. 

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Kuga-Naa  (Kuɣa-Naa)
Naa Andani
Naa Andani Jengbarga  (Naa Andani Jɛŋgbarga)
Naa Zanjina

Drum chiefs and drummers
Ashagu  (Ashaɣu)
Bizun  (Bizuŋ)
Lun-Naa Iddrisu
Namogu  (Namɔɣu)
Namogu-Wulana  (Namɔɣu-Wulana)
Nanton Maachendi  (Nanton Maachɛndi)
Palo-Naa Darizhegu  (Palo-Naa Dariʒɛɣu)
Palo-Naa Kosagim  (Palo-Naa Kosaɣim)
Zakari Kuga  (Zakari Kuɣa)

Musical terms
Dakoli n-nye bia; pagalana n-nye kpema  (Dakoli n-nyɛ bia; paɣalana n-nyɛ kpɛma)
gingaginyogu  (giŋgaɣinyɔɣu)
gungon  (guŋgɔŋ)
Jengbari bobgu  (Jɛŋgbari bɔbgu)
Jera  (Jɛra)
lum manli  (lum maŋli)
lun dogirli  (lun dɔɣirli)
lun kpahara  (luŋ kpahara)
lun titali
lundo' mahili  (lundɔ’ mahili)
lundogu  (lundɔɣu)
lunnyiri*nga  (lunnyiriŋga)
mbayee namlana
N yab' be sambandi 
Namog' yil' mal' k-pion,  kpam  (Namɔɣ’ yil’ mal’ k-piɔŋ, kpam)
Num mali lana nun' di; nun ka lana nun' di di  (Ŋum mali lana ŋun’ di; ŋun ka lana ŋun’ di di)
Samban' lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
Tora  (Tɔra)

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms
gingalinyogu  (giŋgalinyɔɣu)
jenjemi  (jɛnjɛmi)