A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter I-24:  Drum Chieftaincies  <PDF file>

The origins of drum chieftaincies; drum chiefs and chieftaincy hierarchies; the different drum chieftaincies of the towns; how a chief drummer is buried; how a drummer gets chieftaincy; chieftaincy and leadership

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

Supplementary material
  <top of page>

Drum chiefs of major towns discussed in the text   <PDF>
Drum chieftaincy example of Karaga and Savelugu <PDF>

Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  introduction:  burial of a chief drummer; drum chiefs in Dagbon
2.  chieftaincy is leadership; increases respect in a group; drum chieftaincies began long ago

The origins of drumming and the chieftaincy of Namo-Naa

3.  Bizuŋ the son of Naa Nyaɣsi; Bizuŋ’s children are the line of drummers; drummers’ grandfathers are Naa Nyaɣsi, Bizuŋ, Ashaɣu, the line of Namɔɣu; Kosaɣim the line of Savelugu
4.  Namo-Naa the chief drummer of Dagbon

Hidden talks about chieftaincy descent

5.  a hidden talk:  people say Bizuŋ was Namo-Naa but the chieftaincy itself had not started
6.  chieftaincy talks:  people call all Yaa-Naas as fathers or children of Yaa-Naas
7.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s “children” whom he made chiefs in tindana towns were not all his real children, but they are called his children; if a chief has no children, drummers call his sister’s or brother’s child the chief’s son; even Yaa-Naas
8.  Namo-Naa the father of all drummers, and Namo-Naa is the line of Bizuŋ; but not all Namo-Naas are actual children of the line of Bizuŋ; Bizuŋ and other early drummers were not chiefs, but they are called Namo-Naa; one’s child is the one who does one’s work
9.  the difficulties of old or hidden talks, the secrets of drumming regarding the names and identities; people who have written about Dagbon do not know it
10.  early Namɔɣu chiefs were not drumming chiefs as they are today; chieftaincy has evolved
11.  example from Naa Luro’s Samban’ luŋa:  drummers did not go with Naa Luro to the war
12.  Bizuŋ and his children were there as drummers; gradually increased their presence

The Lun-Zoo-Naa chieftaincy

13.  different from Namo-Naa; now only in Gukpeogu and Karaga
14.  relationship of Lun-Zoo-Naa to Bizuŋ; possible Guruma connection
15.  Lun-Zoo-Naa chieftaincy is older than Namo-Naa chieftaincy
16.  the seniority of Namo-Naa over Lun-Zoo-Naa; Namo-Naa from Yaa-Naa’s line
17.  the relationship of Namo-Naa and Lun-Zoo-Naa
18.  drumming chieftaincies are old but not as old as Dagbon; drumming itself is older; many differences among the towns

Standard order of drumming chiefs

19.  most towns drumming chiefs:  Lun-Naa is first, then Sampahi-Naa and Taha-Naa; then differences among chiefs following:  Dolsi-Naa, Dobihi-Naa, Yiwɔɣu-Naa
21.  examples of different ordering of drum chiefs in chieftaincy hierarchies at Nanton (Maachɛndi, Lun-Naa, Sampahi-Naa, Yiwɔɣu-Naa, Dolsi-Naa, Dobihi-Naa, Maachɛndi Wulana), Savelugu (Palo-Naa, Lun-Naa, Sampahi-Naa, Dolsi-Naa, Taha-Naa, Yiwɔɣu-Naa, Dobihi-Naa, and Palo-Wulana), and Kumbungu
22.  Lun-Naa not always senior; examples:  Nanton, Gushegu, Karaga, Mion

The position of Namo-Naa

23.  Yendi has many drum chiefs because Yendi elders have drum chiefs; examples:  Mba Duɣu, Kuɣa-Naa, Balo-Naa, etc.; all follow Namo-Naa
24..the position of Namo-Naa and Yendi Sampahi-Naa; the respect of Namoɣu Wulana
25.  the relationship of Zɔhi Lun-Naa and Namo-Naa chieftaincies
26.  Namo-Naa only beats drum for something important involing Yaa-Naa; Namo-Naa has his house drummers to represent him or stand for him
27.  all drummers look at themselves as children of Namo-Naa; drummers have no set town; formerly would follow chief who gave a drum; if have own drum, can follow any chief; drumming and traveling

How drum chiefs move from town to town

28.  Drummers follow chiefs; a chief can call a drummer to follow him as he moves from town to town
29.  drummers don’t have towns; example:  Karaga Lun-Naa Baakuri from Savelugu drum chiefs
30.  drumming chieftaincies follow two things:  family line and chiefs
31.  how drummers follow chiefs; example:  Tamale Dakpɛma Lun-Naa’s line from Yendi; leaving other Dakpɛma Lun-Naas’ family
32.  example:  Dakpɛma Taha-Naa from Karaga Lun-Naa Baakuri’s line
33.  if a town’s drummers challenge a drummer brought from another town, the drummer can show how all their families came from other towns; all are children of Namo-Naa, every town is their town

How drummers move into drumming chieftaincies:  olden days

34.  drummers can get a chieftaincy by following and greeting a chief
35.  some chieftaincies follow family door; if a drum chief dies, others will move up, and son will get a smaller chieftaincy
36.  if sitting drum chiefs quarrel over an open chieftaincy, chief can move the dead chief’s son directly to the position
37.  drum chiefs are not removed; example:  only current Naa Yakubu has removed drum chiefs along with removing towns’ chiefs; Dagbon chieftaincies are spoiled
38.  how Namo-Naa Issahaku was removed
39.  how a Namo-Naa must visit ancient Namɔɣu near Yaan’ Dabari
40.  in olden days, a new drumming chief only is a chief drummer died; chiefs were not removed

How a Namo-Naa is buried and a new drumming chief installed

41.  two ways to drum chieftaincy by chief who wants a drummer or by family door; join talk to drum chief’s death, burial, and succession
42.  a drummer is buried with a drum, broken stick, and skin; Namo-Naa buried with drum covered with leopard skin; burial dress and procedures resemble Yaa-Naa; Namo-Naa lies on skins of animals; the dead body is walked to the grave
43.  walking to the grave also for chief drummers of major towns; example:  also Savelugu, Gushegu, Karaga; Yelizoli
44.  after Namo-Naa’s funeral, Namo-Naa’s elders tell Yaa-Naa whom they want; if Yaa-Naa agrees, the new Namo-Naa is given chieftaincy in same room Yaa-Naa becomes a chief; walking stick, gown, timpana, guns

The installation of a Palo-Naa

45.  other towns’ drummers follow family doors; example:  Savelugu Palo-Naa; the starting of two Palo lines
46.  usually they inherit according to family; Palo-Naa succeeded by the next chief from his line
47.  how Savelugu drummers will talk to the Savelugu chief; cola sent to the new chief
48.  the drummer’s gather after the funeral; Palo-Naa Gbɔŋlana will sing resembling Samban’ luŋa; walking on knees
49.  how Savelugu-Naa will greet the Gbɔŋlana and Pakpɔŋ; sharing cola
50.  giving gown to the new Palo-Naa; the advice the chief gives
51.  removing the buɣu from the Gbɔŋlana; Gbɔŋlana given a wife

How Alhaji Mumuni refused drum chieftaincy

52.  formerly, drummers were not buying chieftaincy; chiefs feared taking drummers money; chiefs called drummers for chieftaincy and gave drummer a house, horse, stableman, wife, and household support; but modern chiefs want money
53.  Alhaji Mumuni’s refused chieftaincy because of his commitment to Muslim religion
54.  how Alhaji Mumuni refused chieftaincies in Voggo, Gushee, Lamashegu, Pigu, Savelugu
55.  example:  when Nanton-Naa Alaasambila was chief of Zugu, story of how Mumuni refused chieftaincy calls but had to visit Zugulana because of his wife was Zugulana’s sister
56.  before the Friday gathering, Zugulana planned with Zugu-Lun-Naa to offer Mumuni a gown and an additional wife
57.  Mumuni did not know the plan; the chief’s sitting hall filled with people; Zugulana said he had caught Mumuni for chieftaincy; Zugulana’s proverb to Mumuni
58.  how the Zugulana spoke to Mumuni; how Mumuni refused in front of all the people; Zugu Lun-Naa confesses the plan to Mumuni
59.  how Mumuni told Alhaji Ibrahim the story
60.  Mumuni’s story with Zugulana an example of how drum chieftaincies were formerly given; Zugulana continued to ask Mumuni even after he became Nanton-Naa

How drum chieftaincies are bought in modern times; rivalry over chieftaincy

61.  former chieftaincy customs compared to exchange of respect
62.  in drumming chieftaincy lines, people recognized seniority
63.  payment and bidding from additional competition within families; how princes buy chieftaincy
64.  modern drum chieftaincies are bought, the same as how princes buy chieftaincy
65.  some chiefs even announce the price for the drum chieftaincy that has fallen
66.  modern times, some drum chieftaincies are not bought, if a chief wants a certain drummer
67.  some drummers who pass over senior drummers to eat chieftaincy are attacked with medicines
68.  jealousy and rivalry; drummers pray to take a chief’s position
69.  Alhaji Ibrahim does not want chieftaincy; he is qualified, but he doesn’t want troubles

Drum chiefs’ responsibilities and need for support

70.  not all drummers become chiefs; Alhaji Ibrahim has family door but does not want chieftaincy; chieftaincy has responsibilities; need the help of brothers and children; example:  Namo-Naa has many people to send in his place
71.  a drum chief has people behind him; some drum chiefs cannot drum well or sing well; some are aged; they have children or grandchildren who can do the work; example:  Nanton Lun-Naa Iddrisu is very knowledgeable but very old; Nanton Sampahi-Naa Alidu does the work of Lun-Naa and Maachɛndi
72.  Alhaji Ibrahim not a drum chief but has more respect than many chiefs; Alhaji Mumuni the same; Savelugu young men’s drum chief (Nachimba Lun-Naa Issa Tailor) and the young drummers all follow Mumuni as their leader
73.  the same in Tamale with Alhaji Ibrahim; how Alhaji Ibrahim calls drummers from other towns for wedding and funeral gatherings
74.  why Tamale does not have Nachimba Lun-Naa; Tamale drumming leadership from Alhassan Lumbila, Mangulana, Sheni Alhassan, and Alhaji Ibrahim; based on respect and not chieftaincy
75.  how Alhaji Ibrahim leads:  the Tamale drummers gather at his house and follow Alhaji Ibrahim; he receives cola, assigns drummers to different houses, shares money; chieftaincy is in his bones

76.  Alhaji Ibrahim work as leader of Tamale drummers; because of his respect and knowledge; his position compares to chief of drummers 

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

In every group, there must be somebody to lead so that everybody will not be equal, and there will be respect.

Every one of us who beats the drum knows his standing place.

We drummers are all grandchildren of Bizuŋ.

Someone who doesn’t have patience, if he comes to learn the talks of Dagbon, he will always become confused.

Dagbon has got a lot of things, and you cannot learn all of them.

Yendi has got a lot of talks, and only we drummers know about it.

It is the one who takes up your work whom you will call your child.

When you hear any talk on the part of someone and the children he gave birth to, you have to use your sense and know what is inside it.

You should not try to see the ears of a snake.

If you try to see the ears of a snake, you will become tired.

The extent that you reach, you have to stand there.

The knowledge you have, you will know the house where you learned it.

Namo-Naa does not beat a drum by heart.

Whenever you see Namo-Naa playing a drum, you should know that that day is an important day.

Whenever they point at you that you are drummer, you have to point to Namo-Naa.

Every drummer is a child of Namo-Naa.

A drummer has no town.

Any town where we know there is food, and we know that the chief likes us, we go there.

Our drumming started with traveling and traveling.

The drumming chieftaincies follow two things:  they follow the family doors and they follow the chiefs.

If the chief brings a drummer from another town to eat chieftaincy, it can bring talks, but the talks do not go far.  The new drummer will reply to them and ask them a question:  are they not strangers in this town, too?

“My landlord, let’s talk a walk.”

Yaa-Naa and Namo-Naa are like a calabash that has broken apart.

I have given some bad people to you, and I have given some good people to you.  If you don’t have bad people, you won’t have good people.

As I’ve given you bad people, I’ve added you good people.

You should use your foolishness and your wisdom and look after them, and take your blindness and eye-open and hold them well.

As you are not seeing, it’s not because of anything; but you will see something bad and say you’ve not seen, and you will see something good and know it is good.

If you are going to pour water into a gourd, and rain has fallen on it already, then you don’t have to put water inside again.

You were going to search for a woman in her house, and the woman didn’t want to come near you:  the day the woman will enter your house, you don’t have to let the woman go.

If you bend down to look at somebody’s anus, then the way you bend, somebody too is looking at your back.

Chieftaincy is in the bone.

A drumming chieftaincy has got worries.

If you see someone being a chief of drummers, it means he has many people behind him.

Your character will let the people come around you.
The way you are is what will gather people around you.

You can’t catch a live bee and put it into a hole.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Dakpema  (Dakpɛma)
Gbonlana  (Gbɔŋlana)
Karaga-Naa Mahami
Kumbun-Naa Alhassan
Lamashegu-Naa Dawuni
Nanton Wulana
Nanton-Naa Alaasambila  (also Zugulana Alhassan, Nanton-Naa Alhassan)
Nanton-Naa Sule  (also Gushee-Naa Sule)
Pakpon  (Pakpɔŋ)
Pigu-Naa Abilaai
Savelugu-Naa Abilaai  (also Abdulai II)
Savelugu-Naa Boforo
Savelugu-Naa Mahami
Tolon-Naa Yakubu
Vo-Naa Andani
Vo-Naa Moro

Yendi chiefs and chieftaincy terms
Abudu house
Andani house
Naa Garba
Naa Luro
Naa Nyaɣsi  (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Ziblim Kulunku  (also Naa Kulunku)
Naa Zulandi
Yaa-Naa, Yaa-Naas

Yendi elders
Kuga-Naa  (Kuɣa-Naa)
MBa Buna  (Mba Buŋa)
Mba Dugu  (Mba Duɣu)
Mba Malle
Zohi-Naa  (Zɔhi-Naa)

Drum chieftaincies
Darikuga-Naa  (Darikuɣa-Naa)
Dugu Lun-Naa  (Duɣu Lun-Naa)
Dugu Sampahi-Naa  (Duɣu Sampahi-Naa)
Dugu Taha-Naa  (Duɣu Taha-Naa)
Dugu Yiwogu-Naa  (Duɣu Yiwɔɣu-Naa)
Gukpeogu Lun-Zoo-Naa
Logambalbo  (Loɣambalbo)
Maachendi  (Maachɛndi)
Nachimba Lun-Naa
Namogu  (Namɔɣu)
Namogu Wulana  (Namɔɣu Wulana)
Namogu Yiwogu-Naa  (Namɔɣu Yiwɔɣu-Naa)
Palo Lun-Naa
Palo Wulana
Shelunlana  (Shɛlunlana)
Yendi Sampahi-Naa
Yiwogu-Naa  (Yiwɔɣu-Naa)
Zablon  (Zablɔŋ)
Zohi Lun-Naa  (Zɔhi Lun-Naa)
Zohi Sampahi-Naa  (Zɔhi Sampahi-Naa)
Zohi Taha-Naa  (Zɔhi Taha-Naa)
Zohi Yiwogu-Naa  (Zɔhi Yiwɔɣu-Naa)

Drummers and drum chiefs named
Adam Zhee  (Adam Ʒee)
Alhaji Adam Alhassan Mangulana
Alhassan Abukari
Alhassan Kpema  (Alhassan Kpɛma)
Alhassan Lumbila
Bizun  (Bizuŋ)
Dakpema Lun-Naa  (Dakpɛma Lun-Naa)
Dakpema Taha-Naa Bababila  (Dakpɛma Taha-Naa Bababila)
Karaga Lun-Naa Baakuri
Karaga Lun-Naa Blemah
Karaga Lun-Naa Nayina
Karaga Lun-Naa Sheni
Karaga Lun-Zoo-Naa
Kpatinga Lun-Naa
Lunzhegu  (Lunʒɛɣu)
Lun-Zoo-Naa Abukari
Lun-Zoo-Naa Tisuwa
Mumuni  (Abdulai)  (also Mumuni Lumbila)
Namo-Naa Ashagu  (Namo-Naa Ashaɣu)
Namo-Naa Banchiri
Namo-Naa Bizun  (Namo-Naa Bizuŋ)
Namo-Naa Issahaku  (also Zɔhi [Zohi] Lun-Naa Issahaku)
Namo-Naa Lelbaa
Namo-Naa Mahama
Namo-Naa, Namo-Naas
Namo-Naa Sheni
Namo-Naa Simaani  (Zɔhi [Zohi] Lun-Naa Simaani)
Nanton Lun-Naa Iddrisu
Nanton Sampahi-Naa Alidu
Palo Yiwogu-Naa Karim  (Palo Yiwɔɣu-Naa Karim)
Palo-Naa Darizhegu  (Palo-Naa Dariʒɛɣu)
Palo-Naa Issa
Palo-Naa Kosagim  (Palo-Naa Kosaɣim)
Palo-Naa Nantogma  (Palo-Naa Nantɔɣma)
Savelugu Nachimba Lun-Naa Issa (Karim)  (also Issa Tailor, Sakpielgu Lun-Naa Issa)
Sheni Alhassan
Tolon Lun-Naa Mushee
Tolon Yiwogu-Naa  (Tolon Yiwɔɣu-Naa)
Zugu Lun-Naa
Zugu Lun-Naa Mumuni
Zule-Naa Sayibu

Names and people
Kissmal  (Ibrahim Hussein)
Shetu (daughter of Nanton-Naa Alaasambila)

Drumming terms and praises
Dakoli n-nye bia  (Dakoli n-nyɛ bia)
Damba (Festival)
gingaginyogu  (giŋgaɣinyɔɣu)
Lun-Zoo-Naa Mognyini  (Lun-Zoo-Naa Mɔɣnyini)
Naa Nyagsi bia  (Naa Nyaɣsi bia)
Punyigsili  (Punyiɣsili)
Samban’ luna  (Samban’ luŋa)

Towns and places
Kamban' Dunoli  (Kambaŋ’ Dunoli)
Kuga  (Kuɣa)
Namogu  (Namɔɣu)
Yiwogu  (Yiwɔɣu)
Yogu  (Yɔɣu)

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms
be zooya  (bɛ zooya)
ben galsi  (bɛn galsi)
bugu  (buɣu)
gbon  (gbɔŋ)
lorry, lorries
lun zoo
Mba Wulana
mogli  (mɔɣli)