A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-17:  The Damba Festival  <PDF file>

Origins of the Damba festival from Naa·Zanjina; the work of drummers in the Damba Festival; the Somo Damba; the Chiefs’ Damba; how villagers celebrate the Damba Festival; the Damba Biɛlkulsi; Namo-Naa’s role in the Damba Festival

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

Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>

The respect of Damba

1.  Damba the most important month
2.  people prepare for Damba
3.  other tribes have collected Damba
4.  counting additional tribes who have collected Damba
5.  the talk will follow the month; birthday of the Holy Prophet on the eleventh day
6.  Alhaji Ibrahim has learned more about Damba

Origins of Damba:  Naa Zanjina

7.  Damba Festival started from Naa Zanjina
8.  Naa Zanjina got Damba from his travels; probably from Hausas
9.  Wangaras also know Damba; how drummers beat for Wangaras during Damba
10.  how drummers beat Zabaɣ’ Damba for Wangaras on twenty-seventh day of Ramadan; how young girls dress and sit on platforms
11.  young girls dancing with horse tails; young men come to find them as wives
12.  Naa Zanjina traveled; opened the eyes of Dagbon
13.  Damba not from Gonjas; their traditional musicians cannot beat Damba
14.  most drummers believe that Damba from the Hausas; Hausas have lectures during Damba month; Naa Zanjina made it a festival with dancing
15.  first Damba celebration; Mba Duɣu started the dancing; meaning of the name Damba
16.  not much drum language in Damba beating

Evening drumming at the chief’s house

17.  when Damba moon comings out, drummers go to chief’s house in evening; respect the chief
18.  drumming from eight to ten o’clock; people learn dancing there; different dances
19.  Damba dali paɣa drumming:  its meaning; sexual license during Damba

Somo Damba:  the eleventh day

20.  the Somo chieftaincy; the rice-picking day on tenth day; Somo day morning:  walking around the cow; slaughter the cow; drumming
21.  afternoon drumming at chief’s house; chiefs and elders gfather with drummers around 3:30; Somo comes out
22.  chief comes out and dances Damba; big dance circle for the visiting chiefs; until six o’clock
23.  evening around eight o’clock, another gathering at chief’s house; dancing and singing
24.  many different dances at Damba festival
25.  no particular meaning for the dances as part of Damba; whatever dances people want

Naa Damba:  the eighteenth day

26.  seventeenth day:  going around and slaughtering cow, similar to Somo day
27.  cow’s head to Namo-Naa; how the cow parts are shared
28.  afternoon dance at chief’s house; dancing until daybreak
29.  eighteenth day:  Holy Prophet’s birthday; Damba Biɛlikulsi; many people fill the town

How villagers come to towns for Damba

30.  how villagers celebrate the Damba; Damba greetings; bringing food to the town
31.  villagers and townspeople compared; villagers focus on food
32.  how villagers dress; carrying smocks to town
33.  how villagers overdo antimony on the eyes
34.  village women wear mukuru, a skirt from woven cloth
35.  how the village girls overuse lipstick
36.  how the village girls overuse powder
37.  village girls don’t wear cloth as well as town girls, but wear mukuru better
38.  village girls gather to dance Lua
39.  how they dance Lua; risk of injury
40.  Lua dancing compared to other dances
41.  how different the villagers are from townspeople
42.  villagers do not dance well; cannot dance when riding horses
43.  villagers fear the town but come for Damba; how they respect Damba and give greetings
44.  how townspeople dress up their children

Damba Biɛlikulsi

45.  eighteenth day is the big day; big gathering; many people ride horses
46.  how the chief dresses; how the horses are dressed
47.  Nachimba-Naa leads youngmen to the chief’s house

Interlude:  the respect of horses

48.  high respect for horses in Dagbon; adds respect to the horse owner
49.  people strive to get a horse in their life
50.  horses used in war
51.  chief is supposed to buy horses for his elders, especially the chief of drummers
52.  a horse has more respect than money
53.  horse sleeps inside the hall of the house; several people take care of it
54.  riding horses for the respect of Damba; how the horses dance; drumming beats for horses
55.  other drum beating for horses to dance
56.  how the rider controls the horse to make it dance

Damba Biɛlikulsi (continued)

57.  the youngmen arrive at the chief’s house; dismount and dance Dɔɣu
58.  Kambonsi fire guns when the chief comes out
59.  the chief and the youngmen mount horses again; roaming and dancing
60.  chiefs’ drummers and youngmen’s drummers; like the Tamale drummers
61.  youngmen’s drummers different from chiefs’ drummers; chieftaincy dispute has made more people call the youngmen’s drummers
62.  Damba in Tamale:  procession to Dakpɛma’s house; dance there; continue to zongo
63.  procession continues to chiefs of other tribes in the town; dancing
64.  drummers accompany their person home:  the chief, Nachimba-Naa, Magaaʒia; end of Damba around six o’clock

How Damba shows the respect of drummers

65.  importance and respect of drummers in the Damba Festival
66.  how Namo-Naa rides a horse and follows Yaa-Naa in Damba; Yendi drum chiefs all ride horses and beat
67.  Namo-Naa does not beat; he sings; the other drummers, chiefs, and princes lead Namo-Naa
68.  Namo-Naa has the respect of a paramount chief


69.  Damba the biggest festival; main dance for the chief; the other chief’s drumming are Kunyiɣsili and Samban’ luŋa

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

Damba is the month of white heart for all Dagbamba.

We Dagbamba don’t respect any festival more than the Damba Festival.

Damba is our big thing, and that is the respect of Damba.

I think that no one will ever be more happy than on the day your wife gives birth to a child, and you also perform the naming.

Naa Zanjina lit a lantern and opened the eyes of Dagbamba.

Whatever we are doing in a traditional or custom way, it is Naa Zanjina who brought it.

When Naa Zanjina received the chieftaincy, we were in darkness.

It was Naa Zanjina who opened the eyes of Dagbon.

Dances can be compared to each other, and you may think that they are the same, but they are not the same.

On the day of the Damba, no one quarrels with the wife.

Everyone should hold his own problem.

They sing that today is the day to visit the chief, and they will go and visit the chief.

They sing that if you find your trouble, it is not the chief who has found it for you; your trouble is for you, so you should not hand it to anyone.

A human being is bad, but God is not bad.

A chief thief has taken a rich man’s thing and turned around to put it at the rich man’s sleeping place.

Every person has got the dance he likes to dance.

That is the day when you will see whether Dagbon is Dagbon, or Dagbon is not Dagbon.

“How is our good luck?”

For a villager to enjoy a festival, it means that he ate and was satisfied.

At the Damba Festival, you say you should have a long life to meet again.

Even a useless Dagbana, when he is crying, he is crying for the Damba Festival.

If somebody is praying to God, he will pray, “May God bless me to live up to the next Damba Festival.”

Our Dagbon has no animal which has more respect than a horse.

A horse is war.

If there is a war and there is no horse, then the war is a weak war.

If a drummer is not there, then chieftaincy is also not there.

In Dagbon here, if you have money and you don’t have a horse, they don’t respect you.  They give more respect to the horse than the money.

Where the chief sits and receives people, that is the same room where the horse stays.

You will buy a horse to be knocking your chest and showing yourself.

I will not know a person and let him know me again.

A wind is blowing clay pots; gourd calabashes should not make themselves proud.

Never trust a human being.

If you trust a human being, you are lying down naked.

A person separated in a quarrel, his shouting is boasting.

As it has come now, everyone is living where he is living.

Chieftaincy is in the bone.

God should bring us to another year on the day the Holy Prophet Muhammad was born.

On the day of the Damba, if you were a useless drummer, on that day you will not be useless.  And if you were a strong drummer, on that day you will become stronger.

No one in Dagbon plays a type of playing that is more important or better than the playing we drummers have.

I think in my heart that all people who play music would have wanted to be drummers, but they cannot.

Drumming has no end, unless someone throws it away.

The respect of drumming is like the Damba itself.

To talk about the Damba Festival is to talk about drumming and how we drummers are important in Dagbon here.

Something which is coming will not go back again.

We Dagbamba say that when you start to eat, it is over to the food; if you start it, then you have to know how you will finish it.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Yendi chiefs
Naa Sigli  (Naa Siɣli)
Naa Yakuba
Naa Zanjina

Yendi elders
Mba Bunga  (Mba Buŋa)
Mba Dugu  (Mba Duɣu)

Diarilana Mahama
Karaga-Naa Abukari
Karaga-Naa Alhassan
Savelugu-Naa Bukari
Savelugu-Naa Yakubu
Savelugu-Naa Ziblim
Tali-Naa Alhassan
Tonglana Yaamusah

Titled persons, elders, and chieftaincies
Dakpema  (Dakpɛma)
Holy Prophet Muhammad
Magaazhia  (Magaaʒia)
Naa Paani
Nakohi-Naa  (Nakɔhi-Naa)
Salchi Samaali
Yabongwura  (Yaboŋwura)

Drum chiefs
Balogu-Lun-Naa  (Balɔɣu-Lun-Naa)
Bung-Lun-Naa  (Buŋ-Lun-Naa)
Mba Dugu Lun-Naa  (Mba Duɣu-Lun-Naa)
Namogu  (Namɔɣu)
Namogu-Lun-Naa  (Namɔɣu-Lun-Naa)
Namogu-Sampahi-Naa  (Namɔɣu-Sampahi-Naa)
Namogu-Wulana  (Namɔɣu-Wulana)
Namogu-Yiwogu-Naa  (Namɔɣu-Yiwɔɣu-Naa)

Persons and names
Alhaji Adam (Alhassan)
Sheni (Alhassan)

Types of dances and drumming
Ban Nira  (Baŋ Nira)
Bangumanga  (Baŋgumaŋa)
Dam’ Duu
Damba Dali Paga  (Damba Dali Paɣa)
Damba Sochendi  (Damba Sochɛndi)
Dogu  (Doɣu)
Gbungbil’ leli  (Gbungbil’ lɛli)
Gonja Damba
Zhim Taai Kurugu  (Ʒim Taai Kurugu)
Jergu Dari Salima  (Jɛrgu Dari Salima)
Kambong-waa  (Kambɔŋ-waa)
Kunyigsili  (Kunyiɣsili)
Nagbiegu  (Naɣbiɛɣu)
Nakohi-waa  (Nakɔhi-waa)
Nantoo Nimdi
Nayig’ Naa Zang Bundan’ Bini  (Nayiɣ’ Naa Zaŋ Bundan’ Bini)
Nimsal’ Ka Yeda  (Ninsal’ Ka Yɛda)
Ninsala M-bie  (Ninsala M-biɛ)
Pohim Zheri  (Pɔhim Ʒɛri)
Samban’ lunga  (Samban’ luŋa)
Sokam Mal’ O Yela  (Sokam Mal’ O Yɛla)
Suberima Kpeeru
Tora  (Tɔra)
Num Bie N-kpang  (#330;um Biɛ N-kpaŋ)
Worbalsili  (Wɔrbalsili)
Zambalana Tong  (Zambalana Tɔŋ)

Songs and drum language
A yi ninsal’ yeda, a do a zagim  (A yi ninsal’ yɛda, a dɔ a zaɣim)
Bem bo ma, be pam bo ma je  (Bɛm bɔ ma, bɛ pam bɔ ma jɛ)
Damba dali paga, nun lirgi ti ma, ka n nyebi m bini  (Damba dali paɣa, ŋun lirgi ti ma, ka n nyɛbi m bini)
Damma m’ba
Doo be toto, nyeli karabara  (Doo be toto, nyɛli karabara)
M’ba damma
Man’ dan yeli, ka nyim’ bi lan nya  (Man’ dan yɛli, ka nyim’ bi lan nya)
Man’ ku bang nira ka nira lam bang ma  (Man’ ku baŋ nira ka nira lam baŋ ma)
Nayiɣ’ Naa zan bundan’ bini; n-nmalgi song bindan’ dooshee  (Nayiɣ’ Naa Zaŋ Bundan’ Bini; ŋ-ŋmalgi sɔŋ bindan’ dooshee)
Pohim zheri yuyu; churi di mali karimbaani  (Pɔhim ʒɛri yuyu; churi di mali karimbaani)
wam Damba
Zagla, zagla, wam Damba; zagla, zagla, wam Damba  (Zaɣla, zaɣla, wam Damba; zaɣla, zaɣla, wam Damba)
Zungo Damba, namlana, namlana, namlama  (Zuŋɔ Damba, namlana, namlana, namlama)

Miscellaneous terms
bimmangli  (bimmaŋli)
chiltong  (chiltɔŋ)
dachehi  (dachɛhi)
Damba Bielikulsi  (Damba Biɛlikulsi)
gbingbirlogirgu  (gbingbirloɣirgu)
gungong  (guŋgɔŋ)
guinea fowl
kutumakoaya  (kutumakɔaya)
maalam, maalams
Naa Damba
nangbanyibu  (naŋgbanyibu)
nimpobira  (nimpɔbira)
sochendi  (sochɛndi)
Somo Damba
zagla  (zaɣla)

Towns and places

Cultural groups
Ashanti, Ashantis
Chekosi, Chekosis
Dagbana, Dagbamba
Dandawa, Dandawas
Gonja, Gonjas
Hausa, Hausas
Kotokoli, Kotokolis
Kusasi, Kusasis
Ligbi, Ligbi
Mamprusi, Mamprusis
Mossi, Mossis
Nanumba, Nanumbas
Wala, Walas
Wangara, Wangaras