A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-3:  The Origins of Dagbon Before Naa Gbewaa  <PDF file>

The Dagbamba invasion of Ghana; the conquest of the indigenous peoples; Tɔhiʒee, Nimbu, Ʒipopora, Kumtili, Naa Gbewaa, Naa Ʒirli

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

Supplementary material
  <top of page>

Genealogical chart of early chiefs:  Palo-Naa Issa's narrative  <PDF>
Genealogical chart of early chiefs:  Namo-Naa Issahaku's narrative  <PDF>
Genealogical chart of early chiefs:  Nyologu Lun-Naa Issahaku's narrative  <PDF>

Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>

Introduction:  issues and problems of the origins talks

1.  difficulty of the old talks:  fear and lack of clarity
2.  differences among drummers who talked; confusion still in Dagbon
3.  talk should reflect custom and be consistent with training from elders
4.  not many drummers know the old talks; only those who have to know them
5.  we will use talks by senior drum chiefs:  Namo-Naa, Palo-Naa, Nyologu Lun-Naa
6.  these drum chiefs are major authorities; shouldn’t challenge them much
7.  main issue:  the taboos based on covering chieftaincy’s mother’s house from tindanas
8.  main points:  Dagbamba came from somewhere else; mixed with other tribes; Naa Gbewaa’s talk will follow these early talks

Namo-Naa Issahaku:  how the Dagbamba come to their present land

9.  Dagbamba came from Gbamba in Hausa land; no Dagbon at that time
10.  Hausas say they are related to Dagbamba; how Mamprusis call them
11.  came as warriors; roamed; passed Biɛn in Guruma land, came to Pusiga, then to Dagbon area
12.  no Yendi chieftaincy; Nimbu their leader, started chieftaincy; meaning of the name Nimbu
13.  not many people in region; tindanas ruled; made sacrifices
14.  Namo-Naa’s omission of Ʒipopora; Dagbamba at Yendi Dabari; living with tindanas
15.  tindana (Sosabli) gave daughter to Nimbu; Nimbu gave birth to Kumtili; Nimbu took chieftaincy after Sosabli died
16.  Nimbu the chief, Sosabli’s son as tindana; the chieftaincy was weak; Dagbamba not many
17.  Nimbu’s son Gbewaa with Guruma woman; sent for him when Nimbu died; origin of Tuɣrinam; Kumtili as Yiwɔɣu tindana

Palo-Naa Isaa:  Tɔhiʒee, Nimbu, and the early chiefs

18.  join to Palo-Naa’s house talks:  included Tɔhiʒee and Ʒipopora
19.  how Palo-Naa made the sacrifices
20.  Palo-Naa’s comments to John as Lunʒɛɣu
21-26.  Tɔhiʒee in Guruma; kills a wild cow at water-drinking place
27-30.  Tɔhiʒee gives cow tail to Guruma chief; chooses a girl and goes to bush
31-34.  birth of Nimbu as Ʒinaani; the death of Tɔhiʒee and the woman; Nimbu grows and goes to a river
35-40.  tindana’s daughter finds Ʒinaani, who takes him home and becomes his wife
41.  the birth of Yɔɣu Soɣbiɛri, Ŋmergili, and Namʒishɛli
42-44.  Ʒinaani kills the tindana and takes his place
45.  after Ʒinaani dies, Yɔɣu Soɣbiɛri collects; the starting of Yendi
46.  Ŋmergili eats
47.  Namʒishɛli eats; the meaning of Namʒishɛli
48.  Yɔɣu Soɣbiɛri’s child Kpɔɣunimbu eats
49.  Ŋmergili’s child Yɛnuunsi eats
50.  Namʒishɛli’s child Tuhusaa eats
51.  Tuhusaa’a child Ʒipopora eats
52.  no eye-opening then; Ʒipopora started chieftaincy; went to Guruma
53.  Guruma chief gathered twelve girls, Ʒipopora took youngest
54.  Ʒipopora’s children Kumtili and Gbewaa from a Guruma woman Sohuyini; took Gbewaa to Guruma and returned; Ʒipopora died
55.  Kumili ate but no child; when Kumtili died, Gbewaa ate and separated chieftaincy from tindanas

Nyologu Lun-Naa Issahaku:  Ʒipopora and the Gurumas

56.  Dagbamba from Hausa land; Nimbu the leader; sat in different towns:  Biɛŋ, Pusiga, Bagli, Yɔɣu, Yaan’ Dabari
57.  Nimbu’s married tindana’s granddaughter (Shiasabga) and gave birth to Ʒipopora; Kpɔɣunimbu equated to Nimbu; when Nimbu died, Ʒipopora became chief
58.  Dagbamba did not go to Guruma to fight; Ʒipopora married daughter of Guruma chief (Soyini) gave birth to Kumtili and Naa Gbewaa

Interpretation of the origins talks and sacrifices:  chiefs’ mothers’ house as tindanas

59.  this history is not part of Samban’ luŋa; not sung in public; no names for them
60.  fear based on chiefs as tindanas; new Yaa-Naa hears it, goes to Yiwɔgu to sacrifice
61.  tindanas eat through the mother’s house; custom compared to drummers’ daughters
62.  chiefs who have an old thing from mother’s side collect it but continue to eat chieftaincy
63.  the sacrifice at Yiwɔɣu is important because of mother’s house talks
64.  the sacrifices for chieftaincy old talks are tindana’s sacrifices; do not resemble Muslim sacrifices

Naa Gbewaa:  the separation of the tribes

65.  the early chiefs who killed tindanas were weak; Naa Gbewaa separated chieftaincy from tindanas
66.  Naa Gbewaa brought from his mother’s house in Guruma; avoided the women in chief’s compound
67.  as a chief, had many wives and children; the children started Mamprusi, Mossi, Nanumba; Naa Gbewaa’s children
68.  Naa Gbewaa’s son Fɔɣu was his favorite; Ʒirli and his brothers killed Fɔɣu
69.  Naa Gbewaa informed of the death by yua, luɣ’ nyini, and guŋgɔŋ; how Naa Gbewaa died
70.  quarrels among children; the group was separated into the tribes; Tohigu to Mamprusi; Ŋmantambu to Nanumba; Nee Gbewaa’s daughter to Mossi
71.  Naa Ʒirli’s became mad, died without children; Naa Shitɔbu ate Yendi
72.  Naa Gbewaa’s success in separating chieftaincy from tindanas; Naa Shitɔbu and Naa Nyaɣsi followed to broaden the chieftaincy; Naa Gbewaa is most known of the early chiefs

Differences or discrepancies in drumming talks

73.  differences in the versions regarding Tɔhiʒee, Nimbu, and Ʒipopora; also different genealogies
74.  drummers have extent of knowledge from their learning; learning from the father’s house
75.  differences from learning in different towns; drummers travel to other towns to learn more
76.  differences among learned people; compared to learned people in other countries; listen to all and evaluate
77.  the different versions of Dagbamba origins will not be aligned
78.  drummers learn by memory, not by writing; confusion is normal even with writing; difficulties
79.  Muslim religion:  arguments about contemporary writings about the Holy Prophet; compared to how drummers hold knowledge
80.  drummers who have knowledge but don’t sing; singers move through talks differently
81.  example:  calling timpana during Naa Luro is an anachronism; a style, not faulted
82.  small differences do not spoil a talk; drummers don’t argue; the larger points are not affected

Explanation of how drummers merge and combine generations in genealogies

83.  in drumming talks, someone’s child can be taken as someone else’s child; can skip generations in praising
84.  example:  in linking a family, can even call Naa Gbewaa’s grandfather as his child
85.  this information is an important secret of chieftaincy and of drumming talks

The importance to traditon in learning and teaching correctly

86.  example:  knowledge to Nimbu countered an attempt to remove Naa Abila Bila
87.  not everyone has knowledge; drummers ask and learn
88.  responsibility not to lie; importance of the elders


89.  continuation to Naa Shitɔbu and Naa Nyaɣsi

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

If you try to follow a snake to see its ears, you will be tired.

If there is no fear, then what is darkness?

A cow that is in the house, no one fears its horns; but a cow that is in the bush, even if it has no horns, they fear it.

If a child is arguing with old people’s talks, there is no benefit.

There is a limit where you will take this talk and end.

Learning drumming is like going to school.

If you are asking too much, you will come to mix it up with lies.

If a talk is small and it’s good, it’s better than it will be plenty and it will be useless.

As for truth, it is never small.

Truth always goes forward, and lies always come back.

Truth doesn’t finish, but as for lies, they finish.

It is the mother’s side talks that eat a human being.

Our drumming talks are on the part of our Dagbamba chiefs, and this is what we are holding.

This drumming is what our fathers asked to know, and they put it down for us.

Our drumming is different from stories.

“Chieftaincy doesn’t know anything.”  If you have people, and those who are not good people do something bad, and those who do good are there, then you will take those who are good to add to those who have done bad.  And you have not seen anyone’s fault:  that is Namʒishɛli.

I have no child.  My child is my brother.

In our drumming custom, we don’t show that a Yaa-Naa has no child.

Someone will not love somebody more than himself.

Between a mother and father, the mother’s talk is stronger than the father’s.

Everything, when it’s going to happen, it starts in a small way.

It is better they throw spears at you than they tell lies about you.

These talks we talk, we learn them from our fathers, and we were not there at that time.

Tradition is:  “I got up, and my father said this.”

The meat you meet inside your father’s kitchen is what you eat.

Drumming is just like a classroom.

Those who talk, it is not that they don’t know.  They know, but it is the way they know it.

It is good that you hear about something, and you go to that place and ask of it.

Every drummer has the extent he has learned.

It is good that you hear about something, and you go to that place and ask of it.

You will go to see the place, and you will meet the old people of the town, and they will show you.

Our way is:  knowledge is more than one another.

Nobody will talk this talk and it will become one.

You need patience to learn the talks of drumming.

When they sing the Samban’ luŋa, every drummer has the way he will pass from this section or this chief to the talk of another chief.  Someone will talk and curve the talks, and someone will talk and jump some parts, and someone will come and add some styles to his talk to make it nice.  It’s just like the way we beat the drums.  Someone will beat a drum straightforward, and someone will be beating and changing, and someone will beat a dance and mix another dance inside it.

As these small differences are there, it is still one talk.

You are joining the family.

If anybody gets sense, he gets it from somewhere, and he takes it to his hometown, or he will be in his hometown and the sense will come from some place and reach him.

No one knows the ways of drumming more than a drummer.

If somebody doesn’t know something and he is going to do it, he is just going to do it with I-don’t-know doing.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs of Yendi

Fogu  (Fɔɣu)
Kpogu  (Kpɔɣu)
Kpogunimbu  (Kpɔɣunimbu) or (Kpɔɣ'nimbu)
Naa Luro
Naa Abila Bila
Naa Darizhegu  (Naa Dariʒɛɣu)
Naa Gbewaa
Naa Mahamadu
Naa Nyagsi  (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Shitobu  (Naa Shitɔbu)
Naa Zanjina
Naa Ziblim Bandamda
Naa Zhirli  (Naa Ʒirli)
Namzisheli  (Namʒishɛli)
Nmergili  (Ŋmɛrgili)
Tohizhee  (Tɔhiʒee)
Yenuunsi  (Yɛnuunsi)
Yogu Sogbieri  (Yɔɣu Sɔɣbiɛri)
Zhinaani  (Ʒinaani)
Zhipopora  [Sipopora]  (Ʒipopora)

People and titled persons

Bimbilalana Nmantambu  (Bimbilalan’ Ŋmantambu)
Bugyilgu  (Buɣyilgu)
Dr. (Kofi) Busia
Fatyagu  (Fatyaɣu)
Kachagu  (Kachaɣu)
Mamprugulana Tohigu
Nmantambu  (Ŋmantambu)
Nanton-Naa Sule  [Gushie-Naa Sule]
Pakpong Kachagu  (Pakpɔŋ Kachaɣu)
Salagalana Kayilkuna
Subee Bila
Subee Kpɛma
Tugrinam  (Tuɣrinam)
Yogtolana  (Yɔɣtolana)

Drum chiefs and drummers
Ashagu  (Ashaɣu)
Kosagim  (Kosaɣim)
Logambalbo  (Loɣambalbo)
Lunzhegu  (Lunʒɛɣu)
Mumuni Abdulai  [Alhaji Mumuni]
Namo-Naa Issahaku
Nyologu Lun-Naa Issahaku
Palo Lun-Naa
Palo-Naa Issa
Pigu Lun-Naa Issa [Tailor] Karimu
Savelugu Yiwogu-Naa Karimu  (Savelugu Yiwɔɣu-Naa Karimu)
Zingnaa  (Ziŋnaa)

Miscellaneous terms
baobab  [Adansonia digitata]
bagyuli  (baɣyuli)
bugli  (buɣli)
dang  (daŋ)
Dang Gbamba  (Daŋ Gbamba)
gungong  (guŋgɔŋ)
lug’ nyini  (luɣ’ nyini)
maalam, maalams
moglo  (mɔɣlo)
pakpong  (pakpɔŋ)
Samban’ lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
tindana, tindanas
tinga lana  (tiŋa lana)
tua  [Adansonia digitata]
Yeltabli gari kpani
yogu  (yɔɣu)
Yu-u-u, yu-u-u
Zhirli ku Fogu  (Ʒirli ku Fɔɣu)

Towns and places
Bieng  (Biɛŋ)
Fada N’Gourma
Gbamba, Gomba
Yaan’ Dabari
Yendi Dabari
Yiwogu  (Yiwɔɣu)
Zong-cheguni  (Zoŋ-chɛɣuni)

Cultural groups
Dagbana, Dagbamba
Guruma, Gurumas
Mamprusi, Mamprusis
Mossi, Mossis