A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-6:  Chieftaincy in Dagbon  <PDF file>

The Yaa-Naa and the thirteen divisional chiefs; types of divisional chieftaincy; organization of the chieftaincy hierarchy; buying chieftaincy; how the hierarchy shifts; paths to the Yendi chieftaincy; the elders' chieftaincies; paths to the elders' chieftaincies; drumming protocols related to the chieftaincy hierarchy

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



Supplementary material
  <top of page>

Images


Nanton-Naa Alaasambila
Gukpe-Naa Iddi and mid-century chiefs

Figures and lists

Chieftaincy towns classified in the text (list)  <PDF>
Nanton chiefs descended from Naa Yakuba (genealogy chart)  <PDF>
Savelugu chiefs descended from Naa Yakuba (genealogy chart)  <PDF>
Example:  Naa Garba's descendents (genealogy chart)  <PDF>


Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>

Introduction

1.  the talk of chiefs is sensitive; not widely known

Chieftaincy levels

2.  chiefs move from town to town; big chiefs who have villages; many levels
3.  example:  Yendi from Savelugu from Voggo from Tubung from Banvim from Gushee
4.  thirteen major chieftaincies or divisions, including Chereponi

Buying and selling chieftaincy

5.  all divisional chieftaincy are given by or sold by Yaa-Naa according to particular town’s custom
6.  chieftaincy is bought from the one who controls it
7.  chiefs give or sell chieftaincies of their own villages
8.  the buying starts from greeting the chief before a chieftaincy falls
9.  the chieftaincy does not go to the highest bidder; the role of the elders
10.  the role of shyness and greetings in the decision
11.  a divisional chief might have up to a hundred villages; example:  Gukpe-Naa
12.  Yaa-Naa has about two hundred villages; formerly more than three hundred; more respect
13.  thirteen divisional chiefs are the second level below Yaa-Naa
14.  many other Yaa-Naa chieftaincies below the divisional chiefs; all are big chieftaincies
15.  other divisional chiefs given by Yaa-Naa are at other levels; have villages under them but get chieftaincy from Yaa-Naa

How chiefs move from town to town

16.  every chieftaincy and family has its way; many roads, mixed directions; examples
17.  difficulty of talking about the system; have to go step by step
18.  Yaa-Naa’s chieftaincies can be different levels below bigger chiefs; different from village chieftaincies; example:  Savelugu
19.  example:  Banvim; Yaa-Naa’s town does not sell a Yaa-Naa’s town
20.  examples; Yaa-Naa does not sell village chieftaincies; Nanton-Naa’s villages
21.  particular towns vary; every Yaa-Naa’s chieftaincy has villages and elders; John should use sense to prepare the talks for clarity

The elders’ chieftaincies:  Gushegu, Gukpeogu, Kumbungu, Tolon

22.  elders’ chieftaincies; do not move to other towns; not for Yaa-Naa’s children or grandchildren
23.  those who eat the elders’ chieftaincies; not Yaa-Naa’s children; example:  Tolon and Tali

Differences in who eats different chieftaincies

24.  commoners can eat some chieftaincies; examples:  Kasuliyili, Lungbunga; Dalun, Nyankpala for princes or commoners
25.  mixed chieftaincies:  eaten by either princes or commoners
26.  all other chieftaincies “Yaa-Naa’s child”:  can be children and grandchildren; sometimes nephews
27.  can classify by divisional chieftaincies and other chieftaincies given by Yaa-Naa
28.  sometimes Yaa-Naa’s friend (a commoner) eats Yaa-Naa’s chieftaincy; examples

29.  list of chieftaincies eaten by Yaa-Naa’s “child”
30.  not all towns move to other towns; divisional chiefs don’t move, exceptions:  Korli and Demon to Mion; Savelugu, Karaga, Mion to Yendi

The Yendi chieftaincy and its doors

31.  Yaa-Naa chieftaincy not bought; from Yendi elders; Savelugu, Karaga, Mion, Gbɔŋlana; pathways to Yendi
32.  Yendi only eaten by a son; grandchild will contest if from gateway chieftaincy
33.  Mion is strong because grandsons often eat Karaga and Savelugu
34.  the Gbɔŋlana also strong in the succession
35.  exanples:  chieftaincy paths of different Yaa-Naas
36.  formerly many Yaa-Naas came from other towns; examples
37.  now the door to Yendi is limited; even some divisional chiefs do not eat Yendi; example:  Yelizoli

The divisional chiefs

38.  chiefs who are greeted as “grandfather” or “senior father” or “junior father”
39.  custom protocols are not clear; metaphor of zana mat
40.  Mion, Savelugu, Karaga one group; elder chieftaincies a group; Sunson, Yelizoli, Nanton a group; Korli and Demon another
41.  Sunson, Yelizoli and Nanton chiefs do not leave their towns:  traditions from Sunson-Naa Timaani, Yelizolilana Gurumancheɣu, Nanton-Naa Musa
42.  chiefs who are not Yaa-Naa’s children can eat Yelizoli or  Nanton; other chiefs eat there too
43.  Demon and Korli can move to Mion; a group:  the children can eat either
44.  Demon and Korli chiefs can be grandsons; examples
45.  Mion once eaten by grandson, but stands for Yaa-Naa son; Savelugu and Karaga can be grandsons
46.  example:  Diari does not go out even though he can; Yaa-Naa can give any chieftaincy
47.  traditions change; something that has not happened can happen; example:  Nanton-Naa Issa
48.  difference of this example from early writings about custom regarding a son rising higher than the father
49.  further details of Nanton succession:  Nanton-Naa Yinfa, Nanton-Naa Sule
50.  going into details clarifies knowledge; these talks go farther than previous research
51.  each town has the way of its chieftaincy

Commoners chieftaincies

52.  even commoners eat chieftaincies if Yaa-Naa gives:  Kasuliyili, Lungbunga, Dalun

The elders’ chieftaincies:  Tolon, Gushegu, Gukpeogu; Kumbungu

53.  Tolon, Gushegu, Gukpeogu, Kumbungu not for children of Yaa-Naa
54.  do not leave their towns; Yaa-Naa greets as “grandfather”; resemble Yaa-Naa; wives shave heads

Drumming Bimbiɛɣu

55.  drummers beat Bimbiɛɣu for Yaa-Naa, Gushe-Naa, Tolon-Naa, Gukpe-Naa
56.  other chiefs who have Bimbiɛɣu:  Mamprugulana, Bimbila-Naa, Asantehene, Yaboŋwura
57.  Bimbiɛɣu also for Nanton-Naa because of Nanton-Naa Musa
58.  why Nanton-Naa might refuse Bimbiɛɣu

The gbiŋgbiri luŋa

59.  drum covered with leopard skin; chiefs who have it; Namo-Naa’s drum
60.  different chieftaincies have their different ways; cannot classify easily:  Samban’ luŋa, Bimbiɛɣu, timpana, gbiŋgbiri luŋa
61.  chief provides the skin to cover the drum; beaten only for important chiefs
62.  beaten only for important occasions, such as when the chief has died
63.  if the drum chief who has it dies, Gbɔŋlana will not beat it unless to praise Yaa-Naa or big chief at funeral
64.  not beaten for Gbɔŋlana of a chief, or he won’t get chieftaincy
65.  not beaten “by heart”; further constraints on beating that drum
66.  the drum can be played for a chief who has it; like Bimbiɛɣu, something for big chiefs

Doors to the elders’ chieftaincies:  Gukpe-Naa, Tolon-Naa, Kumbun-Naa, Gushe-Naa

67.  not necessarily the children or grandchildren
68.  Gukpe-Naa an old chieftaincy from the starting of Dagbon; Gukpe-Naa eaten by Mba Duɣu; can also be Mba Malle or Zalankolana
69.  Gukpeogu village near Yendi; moved to Tamale by white men during Naa Abudu’s time
70.  Tolon-Naa and Kumbun-Naa are warriors of Yaa-Naa; towns that eat Tolon
71.  Tolon’s starting from the time of Naa Shitɔbu and Naa Nyaɣsi; tindanas were holding the towns; no chiefs, only elders
72.  Zandu-Naa Suŋbi gave his child to accompany Naa Nyaɣsi to war against tindanas
73.  Tolon tindana replaced by Zandu-Naa’s child; Tolon-Naa like the Wulana of Naa Nyaɣsi
74.  Kumbungu also also old; Tolon-Naa is senior; Kumbungu once eaten by Yaa-Naa’s son
75.  towns’ chiefs and princes who eat Kumbungu
76.  Gushegu also old; Gushe-Naa is Tiŋkpɛma, elder of the land; relationship to Mossi
77.  chiefs and princes who eat Gushegu

Conclusion:  the ways of chieftaincy

78.  many princes do not become chiefs
79.  example:  Naa Garba's line and Naa Ziblim Bandamda’s line
80.  every town has its way; one can only know it to one’s extent



Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

If you want to know the ways of Dagbon, you have to know about the ways of the chiefs.

Every town has got the chiefs who can come to eat chieftaincy there.

And some people’s roads will come to make one road.

And that is why I talk and separate them for you.  It’s like taking a small child and showing him the Holy Qu’ran:  you don’t show him the whole thing at once; you start from the first chapter.

Talks separate.

A Yaa-Naa’s town cannot sell a Yaa-Naa’s town.  And it shows that a Yaa-Naa’s town is big to everybody, but they are more than one another.

If someone is talking talks, what is coming is not what is going back.

If you give somebody a wife and show him how to sex, then that person is a useless person.  And so I am giving you a wife, and you should know how you are going to sex her.

Our Dagbon chieftaincy is mixed up.  Only we drummers know how it goes.

Yaa-Naa’s grandson can eat some chieftaincies, but we say that those chieftaincies are for the sons of Yaa-Naas.

How someone’s chieftaincy goes from one place to another, there are different levels, and it is not every chief who can move from his town to eat the chieftaincy of another town.  And it is the particular town which shows whether a chief of that town can go out from the town to eat another town’s chieftaincy.  And every town has got people who have a way to eat chieftaincy there.

“So-and-so sat on the skins and remained in the chieftaincy.”

The one who eats Yendi is “the one God likes.”

Yendi talks don’t die:  if you say that Yendi talks have died, the next day the talks will stand up again.

Yendi too has got its ways.

In these modern times, everybody’s eyes are open.

If you say a talk dies, the next day it grows, because there are children and grandchildren and elders.

Every town has got its ways, and Yendi talks don’t die.

The one who becomes Yaa-Naa is the one God likes.

Something will show that something doesn’t happen, and we haven’t seen it, but it can happen.

Old talks don’t die.  If they die, they change.  That is how tradition is, and it is not a fault.

They only carry a child on the shoulder to see what is far away.

It is your town which will show how your chieftaincy moves.

Old talks don’t die.  If they die, they change.  That is how tradition is, and it is not a fault.

Namo-Naa and Yendi Sampahi-Naa are like two parts of a broken calabash.

If it were something that could happen, it would have happened a long time ago.

These chieftaincies I am talking about, each of them is standing on its way, and the talks of the chiefs are mixed.

Talks come to enter one another.

In Dagbon here, every chief stands on his own way.

Chieftaincy talk doesn’t die.

How the chiefs move, it doesn’t show that if you are the son of a chief, you will also eat chieftaincy some day.

Our custom shows us that the person who becomes a chief is someone God likes.

The talk of chieftaincy never ends, and no one can know all of it.

In Dagbon here, every town has got its way.  And every family has its way.

If you farm millet and birds come to eat the seeds, you don’t send a blind person to go and watch your farm.

If you want to give something to someone to keep for you, you should give it to someone with patience and with very good eyes so that he will be watching the thing well for you.


Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs of Yendi
Naa Abudu Setan Kugli  (Naa Abudu Setaŋ’ Kuɣli)
Naa Alaasani
Naa Andani Naanigoo
Naa Andani Jengbarga  (Naa Andani Jɛŋgbarga)
Naa Dalgu
Naa Garba
Naa Gungobli
Naa Kulunku  [Naa Ziblim Kulunku]
Naa Mahama Bila
Naa Mahama Kpema  (Naa Mahama Kpɛma)
Naa Nyagsi  (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Shitobu  (Naa Shitɔbu)
Naa Simaani Zoli  [Naa Zoli]
Naa Sigli  (Naa Siɣli)
Naa Tutugri  (Naa Tutuɣri)
Naa Yakuba
Naa Zanjina
Naa Ziblim Bandamda  [Naa Ziblim]
Naa Zolgu  (Naa Zɔlgu)
Naa Zoli

Chiefs and historical figures
Banvimlana Abilai
Dakpema Busagri  (Dakpɛma Busaɣri)
Dalunlana Blemah
Demon-Naa Mahama
Diarilana Mahama
Gukpe-Naa Alaasambila
Gukpe-Naa Iddi
Gukpe-Naa Moro
Gukpa-Naa Alhassan
Gushe-Naa Shiwoo
Karaga-Naa Adam [Kari-Naa Adam]
Karaga-Naa Mahami
Kori-Naa Abukari
Kumbun-Naa Asimaani
Kumbun-Naa Bimbiem  (Kumbun-Naa Bimbiɛm)
Kumbun-Naa Zimbaa Pannyu’ ma
Mba Dugu Alaasani  (Mba Duɣu Alaasani)
Mionlana Asimaani
Mionlana Kalim
Nanton-Naa Alaasambila Issa
Nanton-Naa Alaasan Kpema  (Nanton-Naa Alaasan Kpɛma)
Nanton-Naa Issa  [Tugulana Issa]
Nanton-Naa Mahami
Nanton-Naa Musa
Nanton-Naa Sule
Nanton-Naa Yakubu
Nanton-Naa Yinfa
Piembiegu  (Piɛmbiɛɣu)
Sagnerigulana Suleman
Savelugulana Kukara Djee
Savelugu-Naa Abdulai
Savelugu-Naa Kantampara
Savelugu-Naa Piegu  (Savelugu-Naa Piɛɣu)
Sunson-Naa Timaani
Tugulana Dahimani
Tugulana Iddi
Tugulana Simaani
Vo-Naa Aduna [Zangbalin-Naa Aduna]
Yakubu  (Andani)
Yelizolilana Gurumanchegu  (Yelizolilana Gurumancheɣu)
Yidi
Zandu-Naa Sungbi  (Zandu-Naa Suŋbi)

Chieftaincies and titles
Asantehene
Banvimlana
Dakpema  (Dakpɛma)
Dalunlana
Demon-Naa
Diarilana
Dugu  (Duɣu)
Gbonlana  (Gbɔŋlana)
Gbogolana
Gbungbaligalana
Gukpe-Naa
Gushe-Naa
Gushie-Naa
Kanshe-Naa
Karaga-Naa  [Kari-Naa]
Kori-Naa
Kpatinlana
Kpee-Naa
Kuga-Naa  (Kuɣa-Naa)
Kumbun-Naa
Langlana
Malba
Malle
Mamprugulana
Mba Dugu  (Mba Duɣu)
Mba Malle
Mionlana
Nanton-Naa
Nayiri
Palo-Naa
Yendi Sampahi-Naa
Zablong  (Zablɔŋ)
Sampahi-Naa
Pigulana
Sagnerigulana
Savelugu-Naa  [Savelugulana]
Savelugu Kpanalana
Savelugu Wulana
Taginamo-Naa
Tali-Naa
Tampionlana
Tibunglana
Tolon-Naa
Tugulana
Vo-Naa
Waroboggo-Naa
Wulana
Yaa-Naa, Yaa-Naas
Yabongwura  (Yaboŋwura)
Yamolkaraga-Naa
Yelizolilana
Zalankolana
Zandu-Naa
Zangbalinlana
Zohi-Naa  (Zɔhi-Naa )
Zionglana
Zoggolana
Zosallilana
Zugulana
Zugulana  (Zuɣulana)  [Yaa-Naa]

Drumming chiefs, terms, praises
Bimbiegu  (Bimbiɛɣu)
Darikuga-Naa  (Darikuɣu-Naa)
gbingbiri lunga  (gbiŋgbiri luŋa)
Gingaani  (Giŋgaani)
lunga, lunsi  (luŋa, lunsi)
lundo’ mahili  (lundɔ’ mahili)
lundogu  (lundɔɣu)
Lun-Naa
“Naa Nyagsi bia”  (“Naa Nyaɣsi bia”)
Naanigoo
Nagbiegu  (Naɣbiɛɣu)
Namo-Naa
Palo-Naa
Samban’ lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
Sampahi-Naa
Tinkpema  (Tiŋkpɛma)  [Gushe-Naa]
timpana
Tolon Lun-Naa
Yendi Sampahi-Naa
Zablong  (Zablɔŋ)
Nyolugu Lun-Naa Issahaku

Miscellaneous terms and people
bia
Dagbani
gbingbirgu  (gbiŋgbirgu)
Holy Qu’ran
Katin’ duu
Kissmal (Ibrahim)
kpema, kpamba  (kpɛma, kpamba)
namoglinsi  (namɔɣlinsi)
talin
tindana, tindanas
warizohinima  (warizɔhinima)
zana
Nyolugu Lun-Naa Issahaku
zuu

Towns and places
Babshee
Bagurugu
Banvim
Bawku
Bimbila
Boggo
Boggonayili
Bolgatanga
Changnayili
Chereponi
Choggo
Daambee
Dagbon
Dalun
Demon
Diari
Diko
Dipali
Duunying
Galiwe
Gambaga
Gbogo
Gbulun
Gbungbaliga
Gukpeogu
Gushegu
Gushie
Kanshegu
Karaga
Kasuliyili
Korli
Kortung
Kpaliga
Kpalun
Kpano
Kpatarbogu  (Kpatarboɣu)
Kpatinga
Kpiegu  (Kpiɛɣu)
Kuga  (Kuɣa)
Kumasi
Kumbungu
Kunkon
Lamashegu
Langa
Libga
Lungbunga
Malizheri
Mion
Moglaa
Nakpachee
Nalerigu
Nanton
Nasa
Nyankpala
Nyimbung
Nyingali
Nyoglo
Nyolugu
Nyong
Pagazaa
Pigu
Piong
Pisigu
Saakpili
Sabaa
Sagnerigu
Saguli
Sakpie
Sakpiegu
Salankpang
Sang
Savelugu
Singa
Sung
Sunson
Taginamo
Tali  [Talin]
Taloli
Tamalgu
Tampion
Tiboggo
Tibung
Ticheli
Tijo
Tolon
Toma
Tong
Tugu
Voggo
Waawuu
Wariboggo
Yamolkaraga
Yelizoli
Yendi
Zabzugu
Zagbon
Zakpalisi
Zangbalin
Zantani
Ziong
Zoggo
Zori
Zosalli
Zugu
Zulogo
Zuo

Cultural groups
Ashanti, Ashantis
Chekosi, Chekosis
Dagbana, Dagbamba
Gonjas
Mamprusi, Mamprusi
Mossi, Mossis