A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-16:  The Fire Festival  <PDF file>

The traditional calendar; Buɣim (Fire) Festival; the origins of the Fire Festival; historiographic resolution of Muslim and non-Muslim aspects of the Fire Festival; appropriation of customs; the fire procession; the opening of the talisman; Dambabilaa


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



Supplementary material
  <top of page>

The Dagbamba calendar and festival months:   <PDF>

Buɣim (Fire)  [Muharram]
Dambabilaa
Damba  [Maulud’]
Gaambanda
Bandacheena
Kpinibilaa
Kpini (Guinea Fowl)
Noloribilaa
Nolori (Mouth-tying)  [Ramadan]
Konyuri Chuɣu (Water-drinking Festival)  [Eid’ al-Fitr]
Chimsibilaa
Chimsi  [Eid’ al-Adha]

images [forthcoming]
audio:  [forthcoming]
Pan' Dola Yɛlga


Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>

Introduction

1.  how drummers’ work follows different months, especially festival months
2.  the talk of festivals joins the talks of greetings and chieftaincy; festivals’ respect follows chieftaincy

3.  drummers go to chief’s house to announce the festival
4.  summary of the work of drummers in different festivals

The Dagbamba calendar

5.  no calendar of months until Naa Zanjina brought it
6.  the twelve months and the festivals
7.  follows Arabic lunar calendar; does not follow seasons

Buɣim

8.  first month of the year; Fire Festival from Muslim religion; story of Prophet Nuhu and flood
9.  festivals come from Muslim religion, but also are mixed with typical Dagbamba
10.  Fire Festival month is very important to typical Dagbamba
11.  throwing fire and reading Muslim talisman are two different aspects

Questions about the origins of the Fire Festival

12.  drummers say Muslim origin; typical Dagbamba have adopted it
13.  Ziong Lun-Naa’s talks or pre-Islamic presence; most drummers would disagree
14.  typical Dagbamba stories confuse the issues
15.  typical Dagbamba claim Buɣim for themselves; sacrifices to medicines; no evidence that tindanas ever did anything with fire
16.  looking at different talks can obscure the truth; proverb about witches
17.  even maalams can differ on Damba origins; Damba Festival collected by the chiefs
18.  typical Dagbamba can appropriate customs; their ideas work for them; not an argument
19.  origins of Muslim religion in Dagbon is also vague; mixing of customs
20.  maalams are very important in Buɣim; prayers after throwing fire; tenth day readings; mixing

Appropriation of customs in festivals and community celebrations

21.  example:  Guinea Fowl Festival, Muslim origin but maalams don’t whip guinea fowls
22.  example:  Christmas from white people but celebrated seriously by Ashantis, Ewes, Gas
23.  mixing and collecting customs is the way for every era of the past; Dagbamba collected the local gods when they came; Muslim brought the calendar and sense of history when Dagbamba did not even know months; evidence that Buɣim Festival from the Muslims
24.  drummers support the Muslim origin of Buɣim; they don’t involve themselves to challenge ideas from typical Dagbamba
25.  origins of drummers and drumming from Bizuŋ, but Bizuŋ got the drum from somewhere
26.  story of Guruma origin of luŋa
27.  anything someone has comes from somewhere; can add something of his own
28.  example:  Dagbamba perform Muslim weddings
29.  example:  Kusasis dancing Damba
30.  example:  Walas dancing Damba
31.  example:  Gonjas dancing Damba
32.  Dagbamba also collect other traditions to be theirs; drummers are people who ask; more disciplined; different type of knowledge from typical Dagbamba

The Fire Festival month

33.  no weddings or funerals the following month, so people do them during Buɣim
34.  scheduling events during the Buɣim month
35.  sometimes smaller chieftaincies installed before or on the festival day
36.  typical Dagbamba “repair” medicines; sacrifices

The ninth day

37.  Fire Festival day, children collect grasses and tie them; shea butter to make the a torch; give to uncle or grandfather, who gives gift of money and sometimes an animal to the child
38.  cook food and share to other houses; put food on the walls of the house for dead people

Throwing the fire

39.  in the evening, gather at chief’s house; Kambonsi with guns and bells; drummers; people wear traditional dress and carry cutlasses, axes, and knives; can engage quarrels
40.  chief and Paani and elders make fire; drummers and flute players and Akarima; light torches and beat Ʒɛm; chief and followers throw torches and return to house
41.  young men and women light torches; women remove skirts; how they dress and carry the torches
42.  processions through town and to bush to throw the torches into trees; drumming and singing; the type of songs and drumming
43.  settling grudges during procession; shake burning oil on others or use weapons
44.  some people avoid the Fire Festival dangers; consult soothsayers before going; throw the fire outside the house
45.  after throw the fire; return to dance in front of chief’s house; beating Ʒɛm, Baŋgumaŋa, and Pan’ dola yɛliga
46.  maalams make walga medicine for people; walga in a pot at chief’s house; chief’s wives use branches to throw it on dancers; procession continues to houses of Limam, Kamo-Naa, and Wulana
47.  people return to house and bathe “New Year’s water”; Kambonsis return to chief’s house and dance all night; Simpa and drumming, too

The tenth day

48.  go around and greet the New Year; greetings everywhere; chiefs greet others; gifts and grandson money; some people shave “bad hair”
49.  in morning, chief drummer gathers people at chief’s house; Limam says prayers; chief slaughters an animal; Limam unfolds sabli that predict the year and show  sacrifices to perform
50.  Buɣim is considered the first month and oldest month of the year

Dambabilaa month

51.  a bad month; no weddings, funerals, chieftaincies; drumming only beat for namings or at market; bad-luck month
52.  maalams talks about bad days in Dambabilaa; different habits
53.  Dagbamba take Wednesday to be a bad-luck day or good-luck day; especially fearful during Dambabilaa; waiting for Damba


Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

As for truth, it is just true.

Something that you have not heard, if you want to use your imagination and talk about it, sometimes you will put lies inside.

If you eat food in a house with a lot of witches, you will not know who killed you.

What you know about something depends on the one who is teaching you.

Maybe somebody will give you medicine and tell you its meaning, and somebody will give me and tell me another meaning.  As it is, you have your medicine and I have my medicine:  how are we going to quarrel?

If you are going to holding a talk, it is good if the talk is something you have actually learned.

In this our Dagbon, a Muslim will come out from the hands of a pagan, and a pagan will come out from the hands of a Muslim.

Whatever the Dagbamba are doing touches the maalams, and it doesn’t show that it’s from the Dagbamba and not the maalams.

If somebody tells you that as he is doing something, it is his, you don’t have to think that he is the actual person who started that thing.

It is good if you want to talk about something, you know what is holding that thing.

I want you to know that before you get something and take it to be yours, you will follow somebody to get it.

The one who is not strong always laughs at his abuse.

On the Fire Festival day, every dead person goes to his house, because the year has turned round to the new year.

“I am putting this food on these walls, and may God bless me to last until next year, and I will eat and put more.”

Those who are our elders say that the dead people eat it but we don’t see.

“After I throw this fire, may God bless me to meet next year’s festival.”

“We have kept long.”

When the Damba moon comes, it comes to meet playing.


Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Elders and titled persons
Akarima
Gulkpe-Naa
Kamo-Naa
Limam
Lun-Naa
Maachendi  (Maachɛndi)
Namo-Naa
Namogu  (Namɔɣu)
Nanton-Naa
Paani
Palo-Naa
Sampahi-Naa
Tolon-Naa
Toombihi
Wulana
Yaa-Naa
Yabonwura  (Yaboŋwura)

Chiefs of Yendi
Kumtili
Naa Gbewaa
Naa Nyagsi  (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Zanjina
Naa Zokuli
Zhirli  (Ʒirli)

Names and people
Alhaji Adam  (Alhassan)
Alhassan Kpema  (Alhassan Kpɛma)
Bizun  (Bizuŋ)
Dasambila
Fogu  (Fɔɣu)
Holy Prophet Muhammad
Prophet Nuhu
Sang Sampahi-Naa Ibrahim Alhassan
Ziong Lun-Naa Issahaku

Calendar of months
Bugim  (Buɣim)
Dambabilaa
Damba
Gaambanda
Bandacheena
Kpinibilaa
Kpini
Noloribilaa
Nolori  (Ramadan)
Konyuri Chugu  (Konyuri Chuɣu)
Chimsibilaa
Chimsi

Musical terms
Bangumanga  (Baŋgumaŋa)
Dasambila nyu dam kuli, o yi tom pooi, ŋun’ lab’ doli  (Dasambila nyu dam kuli, o yi tɔm pooi, ŋun’ lab’ doli)
dawuli
gingaginyogu  (giŋgaɣinyɔɣu)
goonji
gungon  (guŋgɔŋ)
Kambon-waa  (Kambɔŋ-waa)
lunga, lunsi  (luŋa, lunsi)
moglo  (mɔɣlo)
Pan’ dola yeliga, saasaabo  (Pan’ dola yɛliga, saasaabo)
Punyigsili  (Punyiɣsili)
Samban’ lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
Simpa
timpana
yua

Miscellaneous terms
amaliya
amoonsi
buga  (buɣa)
cedi
chugu  (chuɣu)
Eid’ al-Fitr
guinea fowl
Holy Qu’ ran
jenjengmaa  (jɛnjɛŋŋmaa)
Kambonsis
koofee
kpalannyirichoo
kurugu
lima
maalam, maalams
Mamprule
mukuru
Naanin shee-e
namings
pesewa, pesewas
pieto  (piɛtɔ)
sabli
sabli largibu dali
shea butter
taanchili
takobu  (takɔbu)
tindanas
walga
Yuum Palli Dali
zab’ bieri  (zab’ biɛri)

Towns and places
Banvim
Dagbon
Gbamba
Kumbungu
Medina
Nanton
Savelugu
Tolon
Voggo
Yendi
Ziong

Cultural groups
Ashantis
Dagartis
Dagbamba
Dagbana
Frafras
Gonja, Gonjas
Guruma
Gurunsis
Konkombas
Kotokolis
Kusasis
Mamprusi, Mamprusis
Nanumbas
Walas