A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-9:  Samban' Luŋa, the Drum History  <PDF file>

The social context of the drum history performance at the chief’s house; the performance format of the drum history; learning to sing it; the chief’s responsibility for sacrifices; Baŋgumaŋa; the lesson of history and main themes of particular chiefs; Dagbamba historiography; objectivity and divergent pathways with in the Samban’ luŋa

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

Supplementary material
  <top of page>

Samban' luŋa performance space diagram  <PDF>
Genealogical chart of Yaa-Naas from Naa Zɔlgu to Naa Andani Jɛŋgbarga  <PDF>

Images:  [forthcoming]

Audio recording of drum history performance:  [forthcoming]

Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  Samban' luŋa the talks of chiefs who have died
2.  beaten after Ramadan and during Chimsi, before general prayers, or if a chief eats chieftaincy

Starting the Samban' luŋa:  pounding the soup

3.  the meaning of “Samban’ luŋa”; starts after dinner:  junior drummer “sweeps outside the chief’s house”
4.  sweeping outside the compound:  junior drummer beats Dakoli n-nyɛ bia and family praises
5.  starting also called “pound the soup”; reference to drummers as women
6.  Samban' luŋa also called Luŋ’ sariga; planting the drum

The extent of the Samban' luŋa

7.  ten or eleven o’clock:  senior drummer starts with Dakoli n-nyɛ bia and praise names; beats and sings
8.  finishing pounding the soup; more people assemble; senior drummer shows which chief he is going to beat; one singer and drum chorus behind
9.  drum chief can send any knowledgeable drummer to sing Samban' luŋa in his place
10.  no one knows all; drummer sings about chiefs he knows better
11.  Samban' luŋa knowledge compared to school achievement
12.  knowledgeable chiefs can request particular Samban' luŋa; some do not know; chiefs also have extent of their knowledge
13.  some drummers with knowledge can beat from eight o’clock until daybreak; many drummers know Naa Zanjina
14.  Naa Zanjina and Naa Siɣli have many talks; have to move from them up to the present chief
15.  to move from Naa Zanjina through the chiefs, drummer needs to make some parts short
16.  differences in knowledge and extent of Samban' luŋa; not all drummers reach daybreak; drummers choose different chiefs
17.  a chief’s Samban' luŋa includes his descendents
18.  different paths through the history; sometimes the talks get mixed; example:  Naa Luro and Naa Zɔmbila

Drummers who beat the Samban' luŋa are distinguished

19.  knowledge of the Samban' luŋa is the mark of learnedness
20.  not all know Samban' luŋa; many can beat for dancing but not sing Samban' luŋa; have to learn it
21.  Samban' luŋa drummers have respect in chief’s house; done by drumming chiefs; difference from young men’s drummers in towns who know praises of chiefs but don’t beat Samban’ luŋa
22.  drum chiefs beat it or send someone to beat it; Alhaji Mumuni’s position in Savelugu; Palo-Naa could ask him to do it, or any other drummer who knows it

Learning to beat and preparing to beat the Samban' luŋa for the first time

23.  drummers express modesty before performing; fear medicine from jealousy; protect themselves
24.  drummers don’t seek to beat Samban’ luŋa; don’t boast that they know too much
25.  many people watch and judge the drummer; drummer has to manage anxiety
26.  drummer will review his knowledge in his mind; must be confident
27.  some use medicine to help them remember; also gives confidence
28.  drummer may not sleep from worries and preparation; sitting and thinking and reviewing
29.  sometimes a young drummer can ask an older drummer for help in remembering details
30.  a drummer won’t boast; an older drummer can reassure him that he can beat until daybreak
31.  how drummers learn Samban' luŋa; go to different drummers in night with gifts; massage his legs; can take a year or more; different extent of learning

The Samban’ luŋa performance space

32.  after pounding the soup, the Samban' luŋa drummer who sings will stand in front, facing the chief; the singer does not beat a drum; the leader of the drum chorus seated behind; helps singer
33.  people gather; some use recording devices if drummer agrees
34.  reason why the drummer who sings may forbid recording; example:  Dakpɛma Lun-Naa Aliyu
35.  possibility of mistakes when perform from memory; how maalams praise drummers learnedness
36.  chief sits with elders; chief’s wives and children on other side; drummers face the chief; many drummers

How people show themselves at the Samban' luŋa

37.  drummers praise princes and chiefs and others who who arrive; the chorus leader helps point them out
38.  all those present have relationship to former chiefs; praise them and return to the Samban’ luŋa
39.  princes show themselves; give money when drummers come to their ancestors
40.  drummers praise many people; people tell the drummers if they are not known
41.  those who get the money are the singer and the drum chief who chose him

What the chief does for the drummer

42.  the need for sacrifices for protection; the sacrifice; drummer also sacrifices at home
43.  if do not make the sacrifices, either drummer or chief or both will suffer consequences
44.  if singing about a chief who needs heavy sacrifice, the drummer tell chief the work in advance; chief can stop a drummer if doesn’t have means
45.  for singing some chiefs, the chief will add gown, hat; feed all drummers; different sacrifices for different chiefs
46.  they all fear not to do the sacrifices the Samban’ luŋa may need
47.  example:  no Samban' luŋa for Naa Nyaɣsi; normally don’t have Samban' luŋa for chiefs before Naa Luro
48.  if chief has no means, others in the town can contribute; if not, drummer can omit parts


49.  example:  Naa Dariʒɛɣu and Naa Luro, will slaughter animal when beat Baŋgumaŋa
50.  importance of sacrifice in Samban' luŋa that has talk of war
51.  Baŋgumaŋa first beaten when Naa Luro won war; how it is beaten and danced in Samban' luŋa
52.  Baŋgumaŋa is the only dance in Samban' luŋa
53.  the meaning of Baŋgumaŋa explained; after the dance, continue the singing and beating of Samban' luŋa
54.  the significance of Naa Luro to chiefs

Main themes in the Samban' luŋa of different chiefs

55.  Naa Luro often beaten; gave birth to four Yaa-Naas; chiefs who fought wars have longer talks
56.  Naa Zɔlgu’s talks are old; chief may sacrifice a cow; Samban' luŋa follow the five Yaa-Naas he gave birth to
57.  the drummer starts from the chief who will be beaten; mentions the father and goes forward
58.  if beat Naa Zaɣli, the drummer will start with Naa Luro
59.  if Naa Siɣli, also has Baŋgumaŋa; how the drummer moves through the chiefs
60.  lessons from Naa Zokuli or Naa Gungobli; princes may not get their father’s chieftaincy
61.  Naa Tutuɣri will lead to Naa Zanjina and how he got chieftaincy; further lessons
62.  how Naa Zanjina’s work influenced Dagbon
63.  Naa Garba:  how Naa Siɣli and Naa Bimbiɛɣu ate before Naa Garba ate; have to follow them in order
64.  Naa Bimbiɛɣu and Naa Garba’s brothers:  changed the status of divisional chieftaincies

Lessons from the Samban' luŋa

65.  Samban' luŋa shows chief about chieftaincy and about his family; drummer includes all
66.  princes and commoners also learn about their relation to chieftaincy and their ancestors; example:  Alhaji Ibrahim descended from Naa Garba and Naa Siɣli
67.  even typical Dagbamba can be traced to a Yaa-Naa; families separate and mix in marriage
68.  those who fires died:  those who did not eat chieftaincy become commoners
69.  talk of women in Samban' luŋa:  Naa Luro’s wife and pakpɔŋ; women learn of their strength and pride

Narrative strategies in the Samban’ luŋa:  example of Naa Garba

70.  drummer’s choice of path through Samban’ luŋa depends on extent of knowledge
71.  Naa Garba’s talk includes Nanton-Naa Musa and Kori-Naa Ali; beaten by Alhaji Mumuni at Nanton
72.  how their children are included in Naa Garba:  mother’s children’s children
73.  can go into a bit of detail before coming back to Naa Garba
74.  traditional god names of the brothers; Laamihi asked to be taken to the god to give birth to men

75.  how Laamihi gave birth to the three brothers; the god at Galiwe; new Yaa-Naa sacrifices there
76.  not a fault to omit this story when singing Naa Garba
77.  when singing at Nanton or where their descendants are; the people want all the details
78.  at other towns, the drummer only goes into the story a little bit
79.  drummers choose extent; sometimes inspire young drummers to learn more; the audience not consulted
80.  only the chief is consulted regarding necessary sacrifices for particular chiefs; the narrative path is the decision of the drummer

Historical discrepancies in the Samban' luŋa

81.  Samban' luŋa is not written; learned orally; differences mainly from names and narrative paths
82.  example:  Naa Bimbiɛɣu in Samban' luŋa; his relationship to Naa Zanjina
83.  example:  how Naa Bimbiɛɣu wore chieftaincy dress
84.  example:  how Akarima and Namo-Naa praised him; Naa Bimbiɛɣu’s names
85.  example:  the anachronism of Akarima; Akarima came during Naa Ziblim Bandamda’s time; a reference to previous type of drum not questioned
86.  example:  Naa Luro’s Samban' luŋa; differences in descriptions of how Naa Luro killed Gonja chief, Kaluɣsi Dajia
87.  example:  way of death not significant or questioned; main point is the war victory; only criticize major points

Significance of written and oral traditions for drummers and Muslims

88.  differences in drumming talks not a fault; from learning
89.  knowledge is passed from an older person to a child; not written; moves through generations
90.  comparison of drumming to Islam; role of writing in Islam; different sources of Holy Qur’an
91.  the verses of the Holy Qur’an were compiled and written to put it in one form
92.  drummers learn in different places, no book; Muslims have different traditions even with a book; maalams admire the drummers
93.  different forms from different learning; by tradition, drummers do not refuse another’s knowledge
94.  drummers also learn from different people and one another; add the talks together
95.  beginning of Muslim prayer compared to beginning drumming; call the name of Holy Prophet compared to call Bizuŋ and Namɔɣu; foundation shows the tradition is one
96.  what is in schoolbooks about origins of Dagbon is not from Samban' luŋa; mixed truth and lies
97.  some drummers are unwilling to talk to outsides; writing correct drumming talks will help in future
98.  we should do the work carefully; respect the material
99.  drummers are helping preserve Dagbamba custom; drummers as the paper of Dagbon


100.  transition to Naa Luro’s Samban' luŋa

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

“This child should go and pound the vegetables so that the old woman will cook the food.”

“A bachelor is a child, and a married person is the elder.”

As I have been telling you that wisdom doesn’t finish, and drumming doesn’t finish, no one can know everything in the Samban’ luŋa.

Every drummer will learn it [Samban’ luŋa] only to his extent.

One drummer’s knowledge is greater than another’s.

Samban’ luŋa talks follow many paths.

The Samban’ luŋa is only for those who learn it.

"I'm going to do the work of my father.  And so it is my father who gave me this work.  I don't say that I know too much.  It is by force that I am going to do it."

As for the Samban’ luŋa, its talks are too much.

How we are sitting down and I am talking to you, that is how learning the Samban’ luŋa is.  

Some friendships are more than others.  

If your tongue is going to get tired, then your heart will also get tired.

These dead chiefs we talk about are not people who die and remain in the ground.  They are roaming.  

If you are going to talk about them, you will have to give them something.  

Dagbamba say that you don’t have to love someone more than yourself.

If a stone is falling from the sky, everybody will put his hand on his head.

The dead chiefs the drummer will talk about want blood to come out, and that is why the chief will slaughter the animals.

We don’t beat Baŋgumaŋa without blood coming out.

When we sit for the Samban’ luŋa, we look at the olden days’ talks, and so it is something like reading.

“They will search for me, but they will not see me.”

A chief who hears the talk of Naa Luro will get to know what is inside chieftaincy.  

As the drummer has showed the chief that his grandfather did something great, the chief and all those who have gathered will get to know it, and they and the chief will know how a chief is also standing in our Dagbon.

Naa Zanjina ate the chieftaincy and left his brothers.

Before Naa Zanjina, Dagbon was in darkness, and it was when Naa Zanjina came to eat Yendi that Dagbon’s eyes were opening.

We drummers gave Naa Zanjina a name that he lit a lantern and opened the eyes of Dagbon.  

If you are going to talk about anything on the part of our customs in Dagbon, you are only going to stand on the footprints of Naa Zanjina.

Naa Zanjina was the lantern of the Dagbamba.

The reason why they are beating the Samban’ luŋa is because they want to show the chiefs how chieftaincy is.

It is the Samban’ luŋa that will show a chief how he started.

In Dagbon, if they call somebody and say, “This man is a Dagbana,” then he will have some family with the Yaa-Naa.  

Everybody in Dagbon here who opens his mouth and speaks Dagbani, he is a grandchild of a Yaa-Naa.

All Dagbamba are grandchildren of a Yaa-Naa.  

If you listen to the Samban’ luŋa, you will get to know more about your grandfathers and what work they did.

Anyone, even a typical Dagbana, if you follow him very well and get into the details of his family, you will find that at one time his grandfather was the paramount chief.

Their fire died on the way.

If women should come out and listen to this, they will get to know that from the olden days, their heads were strong, and they were proud.

There are many ways a drummer can come and pass inside the Samban’ luŋa.

As a drummer is singing the Samban’ luŋa, he is looking for the road he is going to pass and his talks will fall nicely.

She didn’t want to marry and give birth only to women who would carry the kuŋmani, and not give birth to children who can dig the grave.

No one is writing this down.

We get all of it with our ears and in our hearts.

Everyone holds what he got up and met.

The Samban’ luŋa is one.

“An ugly thing has come to the open and will not go and hide again.”  

“Water from honey, no one will spit it out.”  

“No matter how big a water yam is, it can never conquer a monkey.”  

“Fire made at the edge of a river; it was made by somebody who has medicine.”  

An old person does not die.

In Dagbon here, someone who hears is an old person.

Everyone has the extent of his knowledge, and everyone has the place where he learns, and that is what has let our talks become different.

There was only one point our grandfathers put down about it, and they said that there shouldn’t be any refusing.

As the Samban’ luŋa follows different forms, it doesn’t mean that it is lies.  

If it were lies, it wouldn’t be standing as our tradition.

Our drumming is one tradition.

Namɔɣ’ yili mali kpiɔŋ kpam:  The house of Namɔɣu has strength, plenty!

We don’t have any book, but in our beating, we have only one beginning.

It is good, if somebody opens his stomach for you, you too will also open your stomach for him.  

The one who knows the quality of the material, even if the material is very dirty, he will still buy the material.

Had it not been for us drummers, Dagbamba custom would have died off a long time ago.

We drummers say that because of us, Dagbon is standing.

We drummers are the paper of Dagbon.

If somebody wants to know something about Dagbon, then you have to see a drummer.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs of Yendi
Naa Andan’ Sigli  (Naa Andan’ Siɣli)
Naa Bimbiegu  (Naa Bimbiɛɣu)
Naa Dalgu
Naa Darizhegu  (Naa Dariʒɛɣu)
Naa Daturli
Naa Dimani
Naa Garba
Naa Gbewaa
Naa Gungobli
Naa Jinli
Naa Luro
Naa Ninmitrooni  (Naa Niŋmitrooni)
Naa Nyagsi  (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Saa
Naa Saa Ziblim
Naa Shitobu  (Naa Shitɔbu)
Naa Sigli  (Naa Siɣli)
Naa Tutugri  (Naa Tutuɣri)
Naa Yenzoo
Naa Zagli  (Naa Zaɣli)
Naa Zanjina
Naa Ziblim Bandamda
Naa Zong  (Naa Zoŋ)
Naa Zokuli
Naa Zolgu  (Naa Zɔlgu)
Naa Zombila  (Naa Zɔmbila)

Titled persons and people mentioned
Alhaji Mumuni [Abdulai]
Bizung  (Bizuŋ)
Bukari [Garba]
Bugudabli  (Buɣudabli)
Bugusagli  (Buɣusaɣli)
Bugutandi  (Buɣutandi)
Dakpema  (Dakpɛma)
Dakpema Lun-Naa Aliyu  (Dakpɛma Lun-Naa Aliyu)
Gbonlana  (Gbɔŋlana)
Gundo-Naa Namkuliba
Holy Prophet Muhammad
Issa [Tailor] [Karim]
Kalugsi Dajia  (Kaluɣsi Dajia)
Kori-Naa Ali
Lunlana Lunzhegu  (Lunlana Lunʒɛɣu)
Maachendi  (Maachɛndi)
Maachendi Wulana  (Maachɛndi Wulana)
Mionlana Mahamudu
Namogu  (Namɔɣu)
Nanton-Naa Musa
Palo Lun-Naa
Palo Wulana
Palo Yiwogu-Naa  (Palo Yiwɔɣu-Naa)
Palo Yiwogu-Naa Karim  Palo (Yiwɔɣu-Naa Karim)
Pigu Lun-Naa Issa
Sunson-Naa Timaani
Tolon-Naa [Yakubu]
Wolimbanilana Azima
Yaa-Naa, Yaa-Naas
Yelizolilana Gurumanchegu  (Yelizolilana Gurumancheɣu)
Yendi Sampahi-Naa
Yiwogu Aminara  (Yiwɔɣu Aminara)
Yogtolana  (Yɔɣtolana)

Drumming and miscellaneous terms
Bem bo ma, be pam bo ma je  (Bɛm bɔ ma, bɛ pam bɔ ma jɛ)
Bangumanga  (Baŋgumaŋa)
bugli  (buɣli)
Dakoli n-nye bia  (Dakoli n-nyɛ bia)
dal’ nmera  (dal’ ŋmɛra)
Holy Qur’an
kabre  (kabrɛ)
kunmani  (kuŋmani)
lung’ saba  (luŋ’ saba)
lunga  (luŋa)
Lung’ sariga  (Luŋ’ sariga)
lundogu  (lundɔɣu)
maalam, maalams
Namog’ yili mali kpiong kpam  (Namɔɣ’ yili mali kpiɔŋ kpam)
Osibilai, bisimilai, ahraman, ahrahim
Sagal’ kani, zheri kani  (Sagal’ kani, ʒeri kani)
Samban’ lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
yogsi  (yɔɣsi)

Towns and places
Yiwogu  (Yiwɔɣu)

Cultural groups
Dagbana, Dagbamba
Gonja, Gonjas
Mamprusi, Mamprusis