A Drummer's Testament:   chapter outlines

Volume II Part 1:  Chieftaincy

II-1:  The Forbidden Talks of Drumming


1.  Alhaji is responding to John’s interest and dedication

The plan for the talks about chieftaincy and history

2.  the topics:  Yendi’s origin, chiefs, Samban’ luŋa
3.  the origins of Dagbon; Naa Gbewaa:  separation from Mamprusis, Mossis, Nanumbas
4.  Naa Shitɔbu; Naa Nyaɣsi’s war on the tindanas and the beginning of chieftaincies in the towns
5.  chieftaincy:  how chiefs eat chieftaincy, their work; the elders;
6.  how Samban’ luŋa is beaten
7.  Samban’ luŋa:  Naa Dariʒɛɣu and Naa Luro; wars against the Gonjas
8.  Samban’ luŋa:  Naa Zanjina and how he ate chieftaincy
9.  Samban’ luŋa:  Naa Siɣli’s war against the Gonjas
10.  Samban’ luŋa:  Naa Garba, Naa Ziblim and the Ashantis; Naa Andani and the coming of white men
11.  not all the historical talks are included; some come in other sections

Difficulties and dangers of some types of drumming

12.  drummers have difficulties getting the old talks; sacrifices, restrictions, troubles
13.  some drumming is forbidden unless certain occasions; example: death drumming

Sacrifices for beating Samban’ luŋa

14.  Samban’ luŋa requires sacrifices; chief pays
15.  not every chief has Samban’ luŋa; smaller chiefs cannot afford it
16.  sacrifices to protect against dead chiefs’ spirits; Bagli and Yɔɣu
17.  example:  four drummers who beat Samban’ luŋa or testified to government died; full sacrifices not made
18.  not many drummers know the old talks; fear bad consequences
19.  Samban’ luŋa talks are public, not hidden; the chief makes the sacrifices

Drumming work and the importance of knowing one’s heritage

20.  Namo-Naa:  drummers as teachers; Samban’ luŋa is instructive
21.  the benefits of knowledge; old talks passed through generations to help people live well
22.  some people want to know their history; others don’t mind it
23.  example:  people have different characters, even in a family
24.  Samban’ luŋa shows a person’s grandparents; important to know
25.  drummers have interest in old talks; learn from elders
26.  drummers believe in custom; maintain knowledge for Samban’ luŋa

Early history before Naa Shitɔbu is more hidden

27.  the talks of the starting of Dagbon are different; Naa Nyaɣsi and Naa Shitɔbu not in Samban’ luŋa
28.  those before them are more hidden; Naa Gbewaa, Ʒirli, Fɔɣu,  Ʒipopora, Nimbu, Tɔhiʒee
29.  drummers don’t beat Tɔhiʒee; not inside chieftaincy; not inside drumming work
30.  Tɔhiʒee’s talk is not long but it is dangerous; people fear the talks
31.  sacrifices may not protect well; example:  Namo-Naa’s testimony to government committee on chieftaincy

Confusion about accounts of origins of Dagbon

32.  Tɔhiʒee’s talks are there; not forgotten or thrown away; only big drum chiefs know them
33.  chieftaincy talks are fighting and bad things; drummers reluctant to talk to Africans or to white men; confusion and misunderstanding
34.  one should be careful about hidden or forbidden talks
35.  human beings fear trouble; many drummers don’t know the old talks

Yakubuʒee’s research  (Harold A. Blair)

36.  Alhaji was a young boy during Yakubuʒee’s research; how Yakubuʒee used to travel around; his colleague
37.  Yakubuʒee carried a tail; probably used medicine to protect himself
38.  Namo-Naa’s recollections of Yakubuʒee; how Namo-Naa’s father taught Yakubuʒee
39.  bad consequences from the talks; deaths of Namo-Naa’s wives; Yakubuʒee’s accidental killing of Sunson Lun-Naa

Other researchers

40.  David Tait’s research; omissions; his death
41.  Brigitta Benzing’s research in Savelugu; paralysis of her informant
42.  schoolbooks on Tɔhiʒee mixed up; children don’t have sense to hear it; unclear sources
43.  John’s communication with Yakubuʒee; Yakubuʒee’s other sources; the British conference on chieftaincy; the work of E. F. Tamakloe

Conclusion:  the value of drummers’ experience

44.  drummers are the best sources on history; more than maalams or typical Dagbamba or even chiefs
45.  importance of following the traditions of drumming; requires sense understanding


II-2:  How Drummers Search for Old Talks


1.  which old talks are important for the work:  how Dagbon started; how the towns started; how Dagbamba separated

The importance of provenance

2.  available written accounts of origins are confusing; not inside drumming
3.  knowledge should have a “father”:  a source, or provenance

Unreliability of some sources

4.  sometimes people who don’t know a talk will say it; reasons why talks get mixed
5.  example:  getting directions from different people
6.  different versions from different fathers or teachers
7.  not good to challenge one teacher with another teacher's learning; just should compare
8.  putting up barriers about subjects as a way to discourage inquiry; example:  difficult sacrifices

9.  better to say one does not know; then look for someone who knows

Differences in drumming knowledge

10.  drumming knowledge compared to educational standards; example:  Naa Garba's children
11.  greater or lesser extent of knowledge is measured but not demeaned

12.  drummers from specific towns have local knowledge

Continued learning throughout life

13.  most learning is achieved when young; householders do not have time; young drummers go around to different towns to learn; what they do to learn
14.  older drummers who are householders can invite a drummer to stay with them; assume his responsibilities

Necessity of sacrifices, greetings, and giving respect

15.  sacrifice as a part of the custom of learning
16.  need to be responsible for one's own search for knowledge
17.  need to give respect of gifts or greetings to the one from whom one seeks knowledge

18.  how Alhaji Ibrahim gives money
19.  Nyologu Lun-Naa’s proverb in response to questioning
20.  greetings and gift put someone into shame; will want to help because your goodness to him

John should continue greeting senior drummers

21.  greetings give you a good name; greet Namo-Naa; John should also greet local elders Mangulana, Mba Sheni, Mumuni, Lun-Zoo-Naa
22.  the elders know the strength of John’s friendship with Alhaji Ibrahim
23.  greetings need not be large amounts; proverb about thread being stronger than a rope
24.  market days are good days to send greetings to people in different towns

The drum chiefs as sources for the origins talks

25.  early talks before Naa Shitɔbu are not widely known; not used in drumming work
26.  senior drummers are the ones for reliable knowledge:  Namo-Naa, Palo-Naa, Nanton Lun-Naa
27.  Nanton Lun-Naa Iddrisu:  his seniority
28.  how to approach Nanton Lun-Naa or very aged informants
29.  Namo-Naa has been a good source for the old talks; Palo-Naa should be the final source

II-3:  The Origins of Dagbon Before Naa Gbewaa


Introduction:  issues and problems of the origins talks

1.  difficulty of the old talks:  fear and lack of clarity
2.  differences among drummers who talked; confusion still in Dagbon
3.  talk should reflect custom and be consistent with training from elders
4.  not many drummers know the old talks; only those who have to know them
5.  we will use talks by senior drum chiefs:  Namo-Naa, Palo-Naa, Nyologu Lun-Naa
6.  these drum chiefs are major authorities; shouldn’t challenge them much
7.  main issue:  the taboos based on covering chieftaincy’s mother’s house from tindanas
8.  main points:  Dagbamba came from somewhere else; mixed with other tribes; Naa Gbewaa’s talk will follow these early talks

Namo-Naa Issahaku:  how the Dagbamba come to their present land

9.  Dagbamba came from Gbamba in Hausa land; no Dagbon at that time
10.  Hausas say they are related to Dagbamba; how Mamprusis call them
11.  came as warriors; roamed; passed Biɛn in Guruma land, came to Pusiga, then to Dagbon area
12.  no Yendi chieftaincy; Nimbu their leader, started chieftaincy; meaning of the name Nimbu
13.  not many people in region; tindanas ruled; made sacrifices
14.  Namo-Naa’s omission of Ʒipopora; Dagbamba at Yendi Dabari; living with tindanas
15.  tindana (Sosabli) gave daughter to Nimbu; Nimbu gave birth to Kumtili; Nimbu took chieftaincy after Sosabli died
16.  Nimbu the chief, Sosabli’s son as tindana; the chieftaincy was weak; Dagbamba not many
17.  Nimbu’s son Gbewaa with Guruma woman; sent for him when Nimbu died; origin of Tuɣrinam; Kumtili as Yiwɔɣu tindana

Palo-Naa Isaa:  Tɔhiʒee, Nimbu, and the early chiefs

18.  join to Palo-Naa’s house talks:  included Tɔhiʒee and Ʒipopora
19.  how Palo-Naa made the sacrifices
20.  Palo-Naa’s comments to John as Lunʒɛɣu
21-26.  Tɔhiʒee in Guruma; kills a wild cow at water-drinking place
27-30.  Tɔhiʒee gives cow tail to Guruma chief; chooses a girl and goes to bush
31-34.  birth of Nimbu as Ʒinaani; the death of Tɔhiʒee and the woman; Nimbu grows and goes to a river
35-40.  tindana’s daughter finds Ʒinaani, who takes him home and becomes his wife
41.  the birth of Yɔɣu Soɣbiɛri, Ŋmergili, and Namʒishɛli
42-44.  Ʒinaani kills the tindana and takes his place
45.  after Ʒinaani dies, Yɔɣu Soɣbiɛri collects; the starting of Yendi
46.  Ŋmergili eats
47.  Namʒishɛli eats; the meaning of Namʒishɛli
48.  Yɔɣu Soɣbiɛri’s child Kpɔɣ’nimbu eats
49.  Ŋmergili’s child Yɛnuunsi eats
50.  Namʒishɛli’s child Tuhusaa eats
51.  Tuhusaa’a child Ʒipopora eats
52.  no eye-opening then; Ʒipopora started chieftaincy; went to Guruma
53.  Guruma chief gathered twelve girls, Ʒipopora took youngest
54.  Ʒipopora’s children Kumtili and Gbewaa from a Guruma woman Sohuyini; took Gbewaa to Guruma and returned; Ʒipopora died
55.  Kumili ate but no child; when Kumtili died, Gbewaa ate and separated chieftaincy from tindanas

Nyologu Lun-Naa Issahaku:  Ʒipopora and the Gurumas

56.  Dagbamba from Hausa land; Nimbu the leader; sat in different towns:  Biɛŋ, Pusiga, Bagli, Yɔɣu, Yaan’ Dabari
57.  Nimbu’s married tindana’s granddaughter (Shiasabga) and gave birth to Ʒipopora; Kpɔɣunimbu equated to Nimbu; when Nimbu died, Ʒipopora became chief
58.  Dagbamba did not go to Guruma to fight; Ʒipopora married daughter of Guruma chief (Soyini); gave birth to Kumtili and Naa Gbewaa

Interpretation of the origins talks and sacrifices:  chiefs’ mothers’ house as tindanas

59.  this history is not part of Samban’ luŋa; not sung in public; no names for them
60.  fear based on chiefs as tindanas; new Yaa-Naa hears it, goes to Yiwɔɣu to sacrifice
61.  tindanas eat through the mother’s house; custom compared to drummers’ daughters
62.  chiefs who have an old thing from mother’s side collect it but continue to eat chieftaincy
63.  the sacrifice at Yiwɔɣu is important because of mother’s house talks
64.  the sacrifices for chieftaincy old talks are tindana’s sacrifices; do not resemble Muslim sacrifices

Naa Gbewaa:  the separation of the tribes

65.  the early chiefs who killed tindanas were weak; Naa Gbewaa separated chieftaincy from tindanas
66.  Naa Gbewaa brought from his mother’s house in Guruma; avoided the women in chief’s compound
67.  as a chief, had many wives and children; the children started Mamprusi, Mossi, Nanumba; Naa Gbewaa’s children
68.  Naa Gbewaa’s son Fɔɣu was his favorite; Ʒirli and his brothers killed Fɔɣu
69.  Naa Gbewaa informed of the death by yua, luɣ’ nyini, and guŋgɔŋ; how Naa Gbewaa died
70.  quarrels among children; the group was separated into the tribes; Tohigu to Mamprusi; Ŋmantambu to Nanumba; Nee Gbewaa’s daughter to Mossi
71.  Naa Ʒirli’s became mad, died without children; Naa Shitɔbu ate Yendi
72.  Naa Gbewaa’s success in separating chieftaincy from tindanas; Naa Shitɔbu and Naa Nyaɣsi followed to broaden the chieftaincy; Naa Gbewaa is most known of the early chiefs

Differences or discrepancies in drumming talks

73.  differences in the versions regarding Tɔhiʒee, Nimbu, and Ʒipopora; also different genealogies
74.  drummers have extent of knowledge from their learning; learning from the father’s house
75.  differences from learning in different towns; drummers travel to other towns to learn more
76.  differences among learned people; compared to learned people in other countries; listen to all and evaluate
77.  the different versions of Dagbamba origins will not be aligned
78.  drummers learn by memory, not by writing; confusion is normal even with writing; difficulties
79.  Muslim religion:  arguments about contemporary writings about the Holy Prophet; compared to how drummers hold knowledge
80.  drummers who have knowledge but don’t sing; singers move through talks differently
81.  example:  calling timpana during Naa Luro is an anachronism; a style, not faulted
82.  small differences do not spoil a talk; drummers don’t argue; the larger points are not affected

Explanation of how drummers merge and combine generations in genealogies

83.  in drumming talks, someone’s child can be taken as someone else’s child; can skip generations in praising
84.  example:  in linking a family, can even call Naa Gbewaa’s grandfather as his child
85.  this information is an important secret of chieftaincy and of drumming talks

The importance to traditon in learning and teaching correctly

86.  example:  knowledge to Nimbu countered an attempt to remove Naa Abila Bila
87.  not everyone has knowledge; drummers ask and learn
88.  responsibility not to lie; importance of the elders


89.  Continuation to Naa Shitɔbu and Naa Nyaɣsi


II-4:  Naa Shitɔbu, Naa Nyaɣsi, and the Founding of Dagbon

Naa Shitɔbu and the founding of Dagbon; the original inhabitants of the region

1.  Naa Shitɔbu the one from whom Yendi chieftaincy started; first Yaa-Naa by name
2.  Dagbamba came and met people; Tiyaawumiya people were before them
3.  Kaluɣsi who became Zabaɣ’ kparba, Dagban’ sabli; those who stayed have become Dagbamba
4.  example:  if John has children with a Dagbana woman, the children will be Dagbamba

Naa Nyaɣsi’s war against the tindanas; the starting of chieftaincies in the towns

5.  Naa Nyaɣsi waged war against the tindanas; Naa Shitɔbu talk Naa Nyaɣsi to gather people
6.  how Naa Shitɔbu counseled Naa Nyaɣsi to prepare for war
7.  Naa Shitɔbu appointed his brother Kuɣa-Naa to look after Naa Nyaɣsi; gathered Naa Shitɔbu’s brothers and elders and their children
8.  Gaa the first town; Naa Nyaɣsi appointed Gaa-Naa Tuuviɛlgu; called a son
9.  the tindanas ran away; Naa Nyaɣsi put a follower as chief; Naa Nyaɣsi made Dagbon stand
10.  those who followed are called sons of Naa Nyaɣsi; list of Naa Gbewaa’s children and their chieftaincies
11.  list of Naa Nyaɣsi’s “children” and their chieftaincies

How drummers praise “children” of chiefs; explanation of discrepancies in calling names

12.  drummers use the names of Naa Nyaɣsi’s children to praise the towns; Savelugu’s name
13.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s followers who became chiefs are praised as his children
14.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s first-born discrepancies with Naa Zulandi and Gaa-Naa Tuuviɛlgu
15.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s followers are his children because they followed him to war
16.  example:  John is taken as Alhaji Ibrahim’s son because following him in work
17.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s followers who became chiefs were not his actual children
18.  some Yendi chiefs or other chiefs, can take brother’s or sister’s child as the zuu
19.  if chief is old or impotent, the children of his wives are still taken as his children
20.  Yaa-Naa’s child who dies is given a chieftaincy name by Yendi drummers; other towns’ drummers won’t know; differences in extent of knowledge
21.  Dagbon has two sides:  Toma and Naya; drummers learn praises of towns nearby
22.  Yendi has moved from former location; many towns also moved

Bagli and Yɔɣu traditions

23.  stories about Naa Nyaɣsi’s succession of Naa Shitɔbu; Naa Shitɔbu died at Bagli
24.  traditions at Bagli when a Yaa-Naa dies; dead chiefs go there
25.  similar traditions at Yɔɣu; Naa Nyaɣsi gave chieftaincy to Naa Zulandi and went to Yɔɣu
26.  stories about Naa Nyaɣsi’s chieftaincy; creating wells; died at Yɔɣu

Assimilation of the tindanas

27.  Dagbon not standing well; no tindanas to make sacrifices; chiefs suffer madness
28.  the tindanas returned and aligned with chiefs to make sacrifices; pre-Islamic customs remain
29.  chiefs are close to tindanas from starting; most are not deeply into Muslim religion

Dagbamba’s relationships to the cultural groups of northern Ghana

30.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s time, the starting of Dagbamba chieftaincy; senior to Mamprusis and Nanumbas; relations to Mossis; connection of Walas and Dagartis through Naa Zokuli
31.  “playmates” with Mamprusis, Nanumbas, Mossis; relations to Gurumas and Yaansi
32.  stories of Guruma origins of drumming from Bizuŋ, Naa Nyaɣsi’s son; eldership of Gurumas
33.  Mossis relationship shown during Fire Festival; Mossis get grandchild’s gift
34.  Dagbamba are close to Mamprusis; Yaa-Naa and Mamprugulana dispute seniority
35.  Namo-Naa:  Frafras, Talensis, Kusasis were under the Mamprusis; mixed
36.  Tampolensis, Kantonsis have similar language to Dagbani and Mampruli; Kantonsis close to Mamprusis; Zantansis their own tribe
37.  all these groups and black Dagbamba are one tribe; have similar languages
38.  relationship of Dagbamba to Upper Region people except Gurunsis; Chekosis and Bimobas no relationship; Builsas, Lobis no relationship; Kotokolis, Dandawas, Zambarimas are related; Bassaris and Chembas have similar languages
39.  Konkombas:  under Bimbila-Naa; original inhabitants in eastern Dagbon; related to Bassaris and Chembas
40.  Konkombas are part of Yaa-Naa’s line; mothers of Yaa-Naas; merging with Dagbamba
41.  Chembas and Bassaris:  no relationship
42.  Gonjas:  no relation; fought wars; typical Gonjas similar to Dagban’ sabli; under the real Gonjas who came to that place
43.  don’t know how many people were originally in Dagbon; Kaluɣsi people may be Dagban’ sabli and Zabaɣ’ kparba
44.  the Kaluɣsis ran away; had much land; became “typical” Gonjas; Zabaɣsi a modern name for Gonjas
45.  Gonjas living as friends but have different way of living; less farming; Dagbamba no relation to Vagalas
46.  Dagbamba invaders may not have been many; Dagbani is a regional language
47.  summary:  related to Mamprusis, Frafras, Talensis, Tampolensis, Zantansis, Kantonsis; also Walas and Dagartis; similar languages, similar ways of living

Dagbamba customs compared to other groups

48.  Dagbambas more eye-open than all others, including Ashantis
49.  example:  Kusasi funerals have similar customs; Ashantis are different
50.  Dagbamba:  know respect; customs have some differences
51.  the people Dagbamba conquered are now Dagbamba, including tindanas; the chieftaincies of the towns started from Naa Nyaɣsi

Yaa-Naas after Naa Nyaɣsi

52.  Naa Nyaɣsi’s zuu was Naa Zulandi; succeeded Naa Nyaɣsi
53.  Naa Naɣalɔɣu died in war, so called a Yaa-Naa even though did not eat the chieftaincy
54.  Naa Daturli, also called Naa Dalgu and Naa Dalgudamda; Naa Briguyomda; sons of Naa Zulandi
55.  Naa Zɔlgu, then his four sons:  Naa Zɔmbila (Naa Zɔŋ); Naa Niŋmitooni, Naa Dimani, Naa Yenzoo
56.  Naa Dariʒɛɣu, son of Naa Zɔmbila; Naa Luro, son of Naa Zɔlgu
57.  four sons of Naa Luro:  Naa Tutuɣri, Naa Zaɣli, Naa Zokuli, Naa Gungobli
58.  Naa Zanjina, youngest son of Naa Tutuɣri; Naa Andan’ Siɣli, son of Naa Zaɣli; Naa Zanjina’s sons:  Naa Jinli Bimbiɛgu, Naa Garba; Naa Garba’s sons:  Naa Saa Ziblim (Saalana Ziblim), Naa Ziblim Bandamda, Naa Andani Jɛŋgbarga
59.  Naa Mahami, Naa Ziblim Kulunku, Naa Simaani Zoli, Naa Yakuba
60.  Naa Abilaai (Abdulai) Naɣbiɛɣu, Naa Andani Naanigoo, sons of Naa Yakuba
61.  Naa Alaasani, Naa Abudu, Naa Mahama Kpɛma, Naa Mahama Bila, Naa Abila Bila (Abdulai Bila)
62.  Dagbon spoiled after Naa Abila Bila’s death; lines of Naa Andani (Andani) and Naa Abilaai (Abudu); Naa Abila Bila’s son Naa Mahamadu eats; dispute between Naa Mahamadu and Mionlana Andani; Naa Mahamadu removed by government of General Acheampong
63.  Adubu house drummers do not call Mionlana Andani a Yaa-Naa, nor his son Yakubu; Yaa-Naa cannot be removed
64.  if Yaa-Naa runs away from war, not considered a Yaa-Naa; example:  Naa Darimani
65.  drummers know the customs; Andani house did not follow custom; installed by soldiers


70.  transition to the talk about Yaa-Naa’s chieftaincy and other chieftaincies, and the work of chiefs

II-5:  The Yaa-Naa and the Yendi Elders


1.   the talk of chieftaincy is an old talk, handed down; every town has chieftaincy
2.  topics:  death of chief, funeral, how elders choose a chief, elders of Yendi

The Yaa-Naa

3.  Yendi chief is the biggest chief; the hierarchy of Dagbon
4.   names of the Yaa-Naa:  Naa Gbewaa, Saɣinlana

How a Yaa-Naa dies

5.  Yaa-Naa does not die; transforms; dies alone in the room
6.  Naa Zokuli transformed to a crocodile
7.  in olden days, tied a bell to Yaa-Naa’s leg on his deathbed; wait some time after bell stopped before entering room
8.  medicine man would enter room first; chief’s body might disappear; bury the skins
9.  don’t say Yaa-Naa has died; “the earth has shaken”
10.  dead chief is held upright to “walk” to grave; tradition spread to other chieftaincies; chief is “roaming”

Death and burial of a Yaa-Naa

11.  now when Yaa-Naa dies, Kuɣa-Naa enters room first; sends to Mionlana`
12.  Mba Duɣu gathers the chief’s elders
13.  if Yaa-Naa is very sick and dying, Mba Duɣu sends for his zuu
14.  zuu stays with Bago-Naa until becomes chief; Mba Duɣu also calls Mionlana
15.  Mionlana and Mba Duɣu inform the Yendi elders and Gundo-Naa
16.  the burial is delayed; grave is dug in Katini room
17.  branching the grave to go sideways; spreading skins in the grave
18.  bathing and dressing the dead body
19.  when bring the dead body out, Mossis and Gurumas are funeral grandchildren
20.  how the Yaa-Naa is walked to the grave; Namo-Naa’s songs
21.  how the body is placed in the grave; relatives look at and touch the dead body
22.  closing the grave; prayers from maalams; the burial is similar for other big chiefs
23.  closing the hole; seven days; all chiefs go to Yendi except Gushe-Naa, Tolon-Naa, Kumbun-Naa; shave the funeral chldren; seat the Gbɔŋlana

The funeral of a Yaa-Naa

24.  the chiefs remain in Yendi until the final funeral; stay until a new chief is sitting
25.  the chiefs have particular houses to stay in Yendi; formerly one year; now six months
26.  fewer people farming because chiefs are not in their towns; results in hunger in Dagbon
27.  the chiefs bring many cows to perform the funeral; bring food from their villagers; accompanied by many elders and housepeople
28.  new Yaa-Naa at funeral; must be a son of a Yaa-Naa; chiefs of Savelugu, Karaga, Mion and Gbɔŋlana contend; the strength of Mion and Gbɔŋlana because grandchildren can eat Karaga and Savelugu
29.  before Naa Ziblim Bandamda, chiefs from other towns who became Yaa-Naa
30.  the contention among chiefs; Gbɔŋlana less strong candidate unless as compromise

Role of Gushe-Naa and the elders in choosing the Yaa-Naa

31.  at final funeral, Gushe-Naa shows who the new Yaa-Naa is; Yaa-Naa is chosen by elders; soothsayers a formality for show
32.  soothsayers do not have responsibility or authority to choose the Yaa-Naa
33.  how soothsaying became part of process when Naa Gungobli was chosen by soothsayers
34.  modern times changes; government involvement; the custom is spoiled
35.  the custom changes; no one holds the custom; comparing the strength of Gushe-Naa and Kuɣa-Naa; Gushe-Naa has leadership; Kuɣa-Naa is also strong; the strength of Tolon-Naa, Kumbun-Naa, Gukpe-Naa, Gushe-Naa
36.  Gushe-Naa chieftaincy:  does not visit Yendi unless funeral; he and followers come as warriors
37.  Gushe-Naa waits outside Yendi; Kuɣa-Naa and other elders meet and consult soothsayers

Showing the riches day:  Gushe-Naa and Kumbun-Naa come to Yendi

38.  “showing the riches” day:  Kumbun-Naa enters Yendi; young men carry special quiver; accompanied by bees
39.  how Kumbun-Naa goes around Yaa-Naa’s house; drumming and singing
40.  Gushe-Naa enters Yendi on horseback; Yendi elders at Yaa-Naa’s house; mock battle; removes thatch from house
41.  drummers beat; grass given to Gushe-Naa; consults with Yendi elders
42.  showing the riches; drumming and dancing; Gbɔŋlana goes around chief’s house

Making a new Yaa-Naa

43.  finish funeral and prayers next day; in evening, Gushe-Naa sends thatch to new Yaa-Naa
44.  give grass and cola to chosen chief
45.  next day, maalams pray; in night Gukpe-Naa takes new Yaa-Naa into room of Katini, Katin’ duu
46.  in darkness the new Yaa-Naa chooses a walking stick of former Yaa-Naa; predicts his reign
47.  other elders who choose the Yaa-Naa hold things of custom
48.  Zandu-Naa has spear; Kaptii-Naa has gbolin; Tuɣrinam has dress; Gagbindana has hat; Gomli has food
49.  new Yaa-Naa does not sleep; Namo-Naa amd Akarima beat
50.  Namo-Naa beats Samban’ luŋa; chiefs gather at daybreak; Mba Buŋa leads chief on a donkey to Zɔhi; Yaa-Naa stays with Zɔhi-Naa, then with other elders, then to his house
51.  following Friday, gathering and greetings
52.  chiefs and princes greet and go home; greetings continue for some days

Understanding how the custom works in choosing a Yaa-Naa

53.  controversy about custom and the role of the elders; custom is slippery
54.  the elders do not explain their reasons; Gushe-Naa’s praise that he is blamed
55.  the rejected candidates may fight the decision
56.  the decision is described as “custom,” not as a wish or as favoritism
57.  nobody apart from the elders knows the process, not even Namo-Naa
58.  writing the custom brought confusion; the decision was no longer unquestioned
59.  too late for authoritative version; court has passed judgment, asked elders to justify
60.  the custom has to be hidden and not discussed or it is open to challenge
61.  the elders follow the custom by following their ancestors; fear to go against it
62.  they gather and compare the situation to the past; nobody outside knows their sense
63.  custom is like a zana mat between the elders and the public; maintains secrecy and confidence
64.  the custom must be hidden to be effective; cannot analyze the process; elders are the authority
65.  example:  no one can deny the existence of Bizuŋ to drummers
66.  example:  family breakers separate the family and undo the custom; now have entered chieftaincy
67.  example:  the meaning of Bizuŋ to drummers; stands for family unity and stands for the custom
68.  Gushe-Naa carries a bad name to cover the work of the elders
69.  why the elders refused to go against custom and replace Naa Mahamadu after installing him
70.  the origin of the elders’ refusal from not recognizing Mionlana Andani as Yaa-Naa
71.  the government acted without the participation of the elders of Yendi to install the chief
72.  Nkrumah had looked at the elders and not the process to understand and follow the custom

The elders of Yendi

73.  Kuɣa-Naa is senior; starting from Naa Gbewaa
74.  Kuɣa a village near Yendi; Kuɣa-Naa represents the elders to Yaa-Naa; lead elder at Damba and other events
75.  Zɔhi-Naa is second; Zɔhi an area of Yendi; represents Yaa-Naa’s children to chief
76.  Kuɣa-Naa represents chief’s wives; greeting days for Kuɣa-Naa and Zɔhi-Naa
77.  Balo-Naa is third; Balɔɣu an area of Yendi; messenger
78.  Kumlana; Kum an area of Yendi; messenger
79.  Gagbindana; heads an area of Yendi; Mba Buŋa also has an area; messengers
80.  elders have their areas of Yendi; any can take someone to greet Yaa-Naa

Elders in the chief’s house

81.  Naazoonima:  chief’s friends; sit with chief; Mba Malle, Zalankolana, Mba Kpihigu; Sakpilisi-Naa; represent different groups to chief
82.  Mba Duɣu:  Wulana of the Yaa-Naa; can stand for the chief; does many things for chief
83.  Mba Duɣu:  closest to chief; becomes Gukpe-Naa; Gukpe-Naa Gbɔŋlana becomes Mba Duɣu
84.  Mba Duɣu and Gukpe-Naa mixed ancestry from slaves; the meaning of Gurunsi
85.  other elders also from slaves; formerly the elders were eunuchs; watches over chief’s wives
86.  if Yaa-Naa wants, can give Gukpeogu to a different elder like Malle, Zalankolana, Kpahigu
87.  removing of testicles no longer done; which elders were eunuchs
88.  Warichin-Naa, Shirikari-Naa, Binzaha-Naa, Mancheri-Naa:  elders for chief’s horses
89.  others:  Monkaha-Naa, Malizheri-Naa, Galigulana, Kushegu-Naa
90.  an elder is called Yidana; Dakpɛma, Kamo-Naa, Limam; Yendi elders and Gushe-Naa make new Yaa-Naa

Other titled elders in Yendi

91.  Namo-Naa, Sampahi-Naa for Yaa-Naa; Yendi elders have chief drummers
92.  butchers:  chieftaincy started from Naa Zɔlgu’s son, Yankana
93.  no Nakɔhi-Naa in Yendi; Yidan’ Baba, Taribabu, Daambolo, Diri-Naa
94.  barbers:  Yidan’ Gunu
95.  blacksmith chieftaincy is So-Naa:  started from Naa Luro:  Yidan’ Borgu, Faamoro, Kotɔchi
96.  how Naa Luro called So-Naa Faamoro to build a bridge and make weapons during Gonja war
97.  names of blacksmith chieftaincy; also Zana-Naa
98.  Gundo-Naa:  a female chief; senior daughter of a Yaa-Naa; Mba Naa her elder; their work in funerals

Chiefs who are women

99.  Gundo-Naa, Kpatu-Naa, Kuɣalɔɣulana, Saasiɣli-Naa; Yimahi-Naa and Nakpanzoolana alternate man and woman
100.  woman chieftaincies are only for daughters of Yaa-Naa
101.  have their drummers and elders
102.  when they eat chieftaincy, don’t have husbands; how Yaa-Naa’s daughter show themselves
103.  men don’t want to marry them; fearful
104.  Gundo-Naa from Naa Gbewaa; their praise; Gundɔɣulana Kachaɣu
105.  the starting of Gundo-Naa; “under-the-kapok-tree”
106.  uses of the kapok tree; Gundogu near Yendi

Titles of the Yaa-Naa’s wives

107.  Gbanzaliŋ is the Paani, first wife; has her own house
108.  Katini, Kaʒee, Galban, and so on; they have their towns; each has relationship with an elder as intermediary

II-6:  Chieftaincy in Dagbon


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

II-7:  How Princes Get Chieftaincy and Go to Hold a Town   


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

II-8:  How Chiefs Judge Cases   

The chief’s court and bad people

1.  formerly, before government courts,  chiefs judged cases in public in front of their houses
2.  types of bad people:  adulterers, thieves, fighters, debtors, witches
3.  the Naazoonima (chief’s friends) were like police; would arrest and detain a bad person

Types of judgments

4.  the judgment (eating the case):  bad person would pay money or would be sold
5.  the sold person would work for the one who paid the debt
6.  the person who buys a bad person was also bad
7.  differences in the crimes; from killing to kidnapping girls or eloping
8.  example:  sex with a betrothed girl; the father would bring the complaint; initial charges
9.  boy held at Wulana’s house; would be fined what the fiance had spent; could be sold
10.  farming and work would not pay the debt; the family would struggle to pay and free the boy

Example:  debt and indentured servitude

11.  chief can intercede for a debtor
12.  the creditor can refuse
13.  sometimes the debtor can work as laborer to pay the debt
14.  can deposit a child to work for the creditor; not the same as slavery
15.  selling a relative to get money to buy chieftaincy
16.  cannot get the person back until the debt is paid
17.  the pledged person might run away, but difficult
18.  could not run outside Dagbon; danger from animals and slavers
19.  sometimes could stay years indentured; sometimes freed

Whipping and other serious punishments

20.  for children of chiefs or tindanas; the barazim; how it was made
21.  for serious criminals like defrauders, also debt; olden days burned the hands
22.  a habitual thief could be shot with arrows; no case would be made


23.  witches not sold; driven from the town or sent to the buɣa, especially Naawuni
24.  can be identified by a victim before dying
25.  could confess and name accomplices; driven from the town, plus debt
26.  many witches sent to Gnaani; how they live there; taboos of the town
27.  if refuse to confess, would break fingers
28.  if no confession, chief will gather women; carry the dead body on a frame
29.  they will use the dead body to divine the witches
30.  the women pass by the dead body; the dead body kicks the witch
31.  they whip her until she identifies accomplices
32.  the witches are driven from the town; her people will also pay a debt; if no money could be killed
33.  women kill more than men; man who kills will be sold, but a woman is driven away

Modern courts under law

34.  modern times, the chiefs do not judge cases; cases go to the government court
35.  the relative of a witch will send the accuser to court
36.  some people accept that the woman is a witch; others go to court and charge the accuser
37.  the chief’s court both good and bad; chiefs use strength, not truth
38.  in modern times, more bad people in Dagbon; no deterrence as before