A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-7:  How Princes Get Chieftaincy and Go to Hold a Town  <PDF file>

The life of princes; relationship of the first-born son to the second-born son; how the hierarchy shifts to accomodate princes; conflict between princes and junior fathers; the chief’s elders:  Kamo-Naa, Wulana, Lun-Naa, Maagaaʒia, etc.; how a new chief lives with his elders and townspeople; how the townspeople and elders greet the chief on Mondays and Fridays

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

Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  talk about how princes move through chieftaincy

Example:  princes of Savelugu

2.  a chief’s child is not raised by the chief; role of Nyoglo-Naa for Savelugu-Naa
3.  the prince goes to Savelugu when the chief is dying or dies; the zuu (eldest) is given a hat
4.  the eldest son becomes Regent (Gbɔŋlana); other princes follow the Gbɔŋlana at funeral
5.  the Gbɔŋlana sits until a new chief is chosen; if not Savelugu, will get another chieftaincy
6.  the zupali (second-born son) also searches for chieftaincy; greets senior chiefs to advocate for him with Yaa-Naa; gets chieftaincy
7.  the remaining children divide themselves to stay with the two elder brothers; follow seniority and the one who gets chieftaincy

When the siblings do not trust one another

8.  if they princes do not cooperate; often due to a brother who neglects the others
9.  sometimes come from children who have different mothers; example:  Naa Abdulai and Naa Andani

Chieftaincy not guaranteed:  the one God likes

10.  all princes do not get chieftaincy; with big chieftaincies, if Gbɔŋlana does not get his father’s chieftaincy, often gets the chieftaincy of the chief who has come
11.  competition with children of previous chiefs; chiefs move and shift; example:  Savelugu-Naa Bofo’s Gbɔŋlana
12.  smaller chieftaincies often not given to prince of the town; prince does not get chieftaincy

How princes’ and commoners’ lines enter one another; modern need for money

13.  family of prince who does not get chieftaincy becomes commoners; all commoners are connected to chieftaincy
14.  commoner who get money or influence can obtain chieftaincy; example:  Alhaji Ibrahim’s line from Dalun and Singa
15.  formerly, chieftaincy was not bought like now; currently princes need money
16.  example of formerly following family:  how Naa Abdulai gave chieftaincy to Nanton-Naa Mahami
17.  Yendi chieftaincy is from Yendi elders; many Yendi princes do not eat it

How a new chief arrives in a town and meets elders

18.  how the new chief will gather and talk to his main elders:  Wulana, Limam, Kamo-Naa, Lun-Naa, Magaaʒia, Salchi Samaali (Nachimba-Naa)
19.  how the elders will respond
20.  the elders will inform their followers; the importance of the young men and their leader
21.  example:  Alhaji Ibrahim compares his leadership role among Tamale drummers to Salchi Samaali
22.  Magaaʒia is leader of the women; Lun-Naa, Kamo-Naa, and Limam will all talk to followers

Chiefs and tindanas

23.  chief sees the tindana before coming to the town; gives tindana for sacrifices to god of the town
24.  chiefs who are like tindanas:  Gukpe-Naa, Tolon-Naa are from the towns; share tindanas work; towns are different
25.  chief and tindana work together but do not do usually make sacrifices in public gatherings

The work of the elders

26.  importance of respecting the elders; Wulana is senior as spokesman for the chief
27.  building roads or paths or repairing the chief’s hall is work for Kamo-Naa and followers
28.  work of  plastering and floors is for Magaaʒia
29.  Wulana is chief’s messenger; attends funerals for chief
30.  Liman protects the town with prayers
31.  Lun-Naa accompanies chief when he leave his house

Respect and chieftaincy

32.  chief must respect townspeople or they will not follow him; many modern chiefs do not
33.  a chief who respects elders and holds people will have respect;  on Monday and Fridays, drummers beat Punyiɣsili, and townspeople will greet him

Protocols of greetings

34.  lowering oneself to greet an older or senior person
35.  squat or kneel to greet any chief; gesture of respect

Mondays and Fridays greetings to a chief

36.  different people have different ways to greet; use the entrance into the hall (zɔŋ), or sometimes outside the compound; Wulana is first
37.  Wulana or his elder is interlocutor for the chief; must be able to speak well
38.  elders:  Wulana most important; Kpanalana, Kpihigi-Naa are also common; also Gushee-Naa, Kukɔlɔɣu, Yipiɛli-Naa, Kukuo-Naa, Yimahi-Naa, Tuya-Naa, Yiʒee-Naa, Gunda-Naa, Zoɣyuri-Naa; differences from town to town
39.  Wulana and followers sit and greet, turn to face same way as chief; Naazoonima also sit like that
40.  when chief greets, those gathered clap hands; Naazoonima snap fingers
41.  must say the word “Chief” when responding to the chief
42.  how the Limam greets; receives cola; sits facing the chief
43.  how the Kamo-Naa greets; stands behind the chief to greet; sits on a chair; other elders of Kamo-Naa; receive cola and pito
44.  Lun-Naa and other drum chiefs and followers; sit to the chief’s right; how they greet
45.  how Yidan’ Gunu and barbers greet; sit near to chief; Yidan’ Gunu a Naazoo
46.  other elders:  Nakɔhi-Naa and butchers, So-Naa and blacksmiths
47.  princes who are staying with the chief sit to the left; townspeople to the right

How the villagers greet the chief on Mondays and Fridays

48.  each village has the elder who leads them to the chief; how the villagers arrive
49.  villagers bring food and money; how they are presented to the chief and the greetings
50.  villagers also talk about a village problem they may have
51.  how the elder talks about the problem to the chief, and the chief responds
52.  example of improvement projects in the village
53.  no delay for emergencies; villagers and chiefs respond quickly; different from Mondays and Fridays
54.  Mondays and Fridays are “white heart” greetings; villagers bring food because formerly the chiefs did not farm; one should not greet a chief without giving something
55.  others bring cola or money, or both

Terms of address in chiefs’ greetings

56.  how the chief addresses other chiefs, princes, and others as junior father, grandfather, aunt
57.  chiefs the Yaa-Naa addresses as grandfather or senior father
58.  who squats in front of chief to receive collect and whom they send the cola to his sitting place
59.  example:  how Gukpe-Naa addresses Tamale area tindanas and village chiefs


60.  exchange of respect helps people solve their problems
61.  transition to the talk of the chief’s court

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

A first-born son is always praying that his father will die early, because if his father dies early, he will grow.

As for fresh milk, some is better than the other, but there is no difference in its whiteness.

Inside our families, if you don’t have the same mother with someone, you will do bad to one another.

If the bush is grown plenty, it should not joke with fire.

How the princes move, its talk does not die,

Not all the children of a chief can become a chief, and the one who gets chieftaincy is the one God likes.

A person cannot show our Dagbamba chieftaincy because its talks are so many.  

It is only the one God has given chieftaincy who becomes a chief.

As we are all sitting in Dagbon here, there is no one whose grandfather was never a chief.

Anyone who speaks Dagbani is a chief’s son.

If you light a fire from somewhere to go and do something somewhere else, and on the way the fire dies.  And when the fire dies on the way, that is it.

They were following, “This chieftaincy has come to the door of this man.”

“My owner, the Yaa-Naa, the one who is for me and has control over me, he said that I should come and look after you.  And he said I should hold you, and you will also hold me.  And so these my eyes, they are open, but they don’t see.  And these my ears are deaf.  And these my legs are crippled.  My eyes are you people; my ears are you people; my legs are you people.  If my mouth opens and says something, you will have to do it.”

“As the chief has said we should hold him and he will also hold us, we don’t have the way to hold him.   And so it is God who will hold the chief, and the chief will hold us.  And so God will make the chief well, and the chief will make the commoner well.”

The tindana is for something that is in the ground, and it’s hidden, and the tindana is a child of the town.

A chief is a stranger in the town.

Every town has its gods, and they have different ways.

These gods, they have one name — gods — but they are not the same.

Things look like each other, but they are not the same.

Everywhere has its own way.

“This town’s gods, I don’t know our gods, and I don’t know what I have eaten.  And so I want to beg you, and you will give me good sleep.”

If Lun-Naa is not there,  the chief will be walking, and no one will know he’s a chief.  At that time, his chieftaincy is not there.

If a chief eats chieftaincy and he wants to be given respect and be liked by the people of the town, he has to give the chieftaincy he is eating to the people of the town.

And so chieftaincy is in the bone of a human being.

If a chief doesn’t respect himself, no one will respect him.

These are the chiefs we call “I have not yet collected chieftaincy.”

The elder who talks is the one who knows how to talk.
The one whose mouth is alive, he is the one who will talk.

If you are going to talk something, and you don’t talk well, sometimes your talk will not do the work you want it to do.

“A lion’s child, a lion’s child.  The owner of the trees and the grass.  The owner of the sky and the ground.  The child of the lion.  You are for the flour and you are for the food and you are for the soup.”

“Because of the good benefits of God for creating a chief, this is how your junior father has sent people to come and see how you are sleeping these days.”

“Your grandfather has sent people to come and see how you are sleeping these days.  And he has sent this number of guinea fowls for you to cook your soup to be nice and for you to be eating.  And he has sent yams too for you to be giving to the children to be roasting.”

And so we Dagbamba, it is on our heads like that:  any time you are going to the chief, you have to carry something.

It is the respect that they give one another that will let them have one mouth so that they will live together well.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Yendi chieftaincy
Naa Abdulai
Andani family
Abudu family
Naa Andani
Naa Yakuba

Chieftaincies and Yendi elders mentioned
Kuga-Naa (Kuɣa-Naa)
M’Ba Dugu (M’Ba Duɣu)
Zangbalinlana, Zangbalin-Naa

Chiefs mentioned
Dalunlana Blemah
Nanton-Naa Mahami
Nanton-Naa Musa
Savelugu-Naa Abdulai
Savelugu-Naa Bofo
Savelugu-Naa Gurigulo
Singlana Aduna

Town elders
Dakpema (Dakpɛma)
Magaazhia (Magaaʒia)
Nakohi-Naa (Nakɔhi-Naa)
Salchi Samaali
Yidan’ Gunu

Chief’s house elders
Kukologu (Kukɔlɔɣu)
Yizhee-Naa (Yiʒee-Naa)
Yipieli-Naa (Yipiɛli-Naa)
Zogyuri-Naa (Zoɣyuri-Naa)

Kambonsi elders
Jahinfo (Jahinfɔ)

Chiefs mentioned
Dalunlana Blemah
Nanton-Naa Mahami
Nanton-Naa Musa
Savelugu-Naa Abdulai
Savelugu-Naa Bofo
Savelugu-Naa Gurigulo
Singlana Aduna

Names and people
Alhaji Adam (Alhassan Mangulana)
Lun-Zoo-Naa Abukari

Miscellaneous terms
bakpema (bakpɛma) Naa bakpema (Naa bakpɛma)
guinea corn
Holy Qu’ran
Kambonsi, Kambonsis
pirba, Mpirba
Naa bakpema (Naa bakpɛma)
Naazoo, Naazoonima
Punyigsili (Punyiɣsili)
tindana, tindanas
zong (zɔŋ)

Towns and places

Cultural groups
Dagbana, Dagbamba