A Drummer's Testament:   chapter outlines and links

Volume II Part 3:  Festivals

II-1:  The Fire Festival


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


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

II-2:  The Damba Festival

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; M’ba 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; hoe 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

II-3:  The Guinea Fowl, Ramadan, and Chimsi Festivals

Guinea Fowl Festival

1.  Transition:  Naa Zanjina brought Islam to Dagbon; learned of Guinea Fowl fesitval
2.  the story:  guinea fowl refused to show Holy Prophet where there was water
3.  whipping a guinea fowl; slaughter, cook food and share
4.  drummers go to butchers; drum and get meat; beat Nakɔhi-waa
5.  no longer there because of chieftaincy dispute
6.  drummers sometimes go around to houses; some people eat chieftaincies

Ramadan fasting

7.  many talks
8.  people set a goal of fasting; how they fast
9.  how fasting started; Naa Zanjina learned fasting from maalams; the meaning of fasting
10.  importance of early morning food; people use different strategies
11.  different ways to break the fast; sickness; postponing the fast
12.  how women fast
13.  how Alhaji Ibrahim fasts
14.  problems of fasting; irritability from hunger; differences among people
15.  girlfriends cook food for boyfirends; part of courtship

Ending the fast:  Water-Drinking Festival

16.  on twenty-sixth day:  slaughter animal and share food; children go to houses singing; alms
17.  new moon:  happiness at end of month when new moon; alms
18.  Eid’ prayers gathering; general happiness; people who only pray during Ramadan

Drummers’ work during Ramadan

19.  during fast, drummers beat every evening at chief’s house; Samban’ luŋa when new moon breaks; go around to houses after general prayers
20.  Naa Zanjina’s time:  Limam to lead prayers at chief’s house during Ramadan
21.  Namo-Naa also led drummers to chief’s house
22.  beat Asam:  Gingaani when beaten during Ramadan; no dancing
23.  beat Bandamda on Thursdays and Sundays; no dancing; singing until midnight; Bandamda also only for women chiefs and tindanas
24.  Ramadan:  respect the chief with drumming and singing; young drummers learn

The drum chiefs and the chief’s house beating

25.  how Namo-Naa divides the drumming among the drum chiefs
26.  Yendi:  Namo-Naa for ten days; Sampahi-Naa for ten days; Namɔɣu-Lun-Naa, then Namɔɣu-Yiwɔɣu-Naa and Namɔɣu-Wulana
27.  how Yendi drum chiefs divide the days; shows their status
28.  not all drum chiefs beat; all earnings to senior chief to distribute
29.  example of Nanton:  different days for Maachɛndi and Lun-Naa
30.  how Savelugu drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
31.  how Nanton drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
32.  how Voggo drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
33.  how Kumbungu drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
34.  how Mion drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
35.  how Karaga drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
36.  how Gushegu drum chiefs divide the Ramadan beating
37.  the drum chiefs all have their standing places in the towns

The Samban’ luŋa

38.  when the new moon comes out, the chief sends a messenger; drum chief chooses drummers to sweep the compound and to sing the Samban’ luŋa
39.  Namo-Naa can choose to sing or not

Drumming for the general prayers; the respect of drumming in festivals

40.  the next day:  general prayers; Namo-Naa goes to the chief’s house to beat
41.  the chief and Namo-Naa ride horses to the prayers
42.  after the prayers, ride back to the chief’s house; Namo-Naa beats; Gingaani when chief dismounts
43.  dancing at the chief’s house
44.  how the drummers lead Namo-Naa home
45.  the next day, Namo-Naa and drummers greet the chief the new year; dancing at the chief’s house
46.  in towns, drummers enter houses to beat morning and afternoon; new year greetings
47.  how drummers go to other towns; the respect of drumming
48.  one can see the respect of drumming in festivals and traveling

Example:  traveling to another town during festival months

49.  Alhaji Ibrahim invited to bring drummers to Akosombo for Ramadan
50.  money sent for transportation
51.  how drummers protect their drums when traveling; spare parts
52.  how they were received; lodging and food
53.  going around to greet; receiving money
54.  arranging a Samban’ luŋa
55.  beating the Samban’ luŋa; their gifts
56.  drumming the next day
57.  farewell from Akosombo; how people praised their drumming
58.  the chieftaincy dispute:  Andani house woman asks for Andani drummers; chief agrees
59.  how the Dakpɛma drum chief consulted with Alhaji Ibrahim
60.  Dakpɛma drummers not well received at Akosombo; Akosombo chief writes Alhaji Ibrahim
61.  Alhaji Ibrahim’s return to Akosombo; well-received; the removal of Naa Mahamadu
62.  the Akosombo chief writes Alhaji Ibrahim; how they discussed the situation


63.  pilgrimage month; Samban’ luŋa beaten
64.  the festival from the Muslim religion
65.  sacrifice animals; story of Prophet Ibrahim
66.  a happy month; blessings of the sacrifices
67.  Chimsi month for pilgrimage to Mecca; a dangerous journey
68.  how the pilgrim’s friends and family welcome him back
69.  in Dagbon, celebrate with general prayers, Samban’ luŋa
70.  sacrifice of animals; sharing the meat; dress and go around to greet; drummers go to houses


71.  Buɣim follows Chimsi; festival talks join many other talks
72.  the talk of festivals has fallen well
73.  conclusion:  tomorrow’s talk