A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter III-17:  How Dagbamba Marry   <PDF file>

Ways of getting a wife; the age at which Dagbamba marry; responsibilities toward in-laws; how traditional Dagbamba marry; how Muslims marry; how chiefs marry; the life of chief’s wives

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

[images forthcoming]

Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>


1.  different ways to get a wife for Muslims and typical Dagbamba; drummers get wives easily

Dagbamba way:  greeting or respecting an older person

2.  young man can begin greeting an old person and helping him
3.  old person will tell the boy’s father that he will give him a wife
4.  young man can be greeting an old woman with firewood or foodstuffs
5.  old woman will tell the boy’s father that she will give him a wife
6.  the father and his brothers will send people to greet the old woman
7.  to get a wife, have to respect and greet the people who have the woman

Examples:  how Alhaji helped his brothers to get wives

8.  how young Alhaji Ibrahim greeted an old woman his father used to help
9.  when the woman died, her daughter gave a girl to Alhaji Ibrahim, who gave her to his brother
10.  Alhaji Ibrahim also got a wife for his brother  Sumaani

How Alhaji Ibrahim got his wives

11.  how Alhaji Ibrahim befriended Marta with friendship money
12.  befriending Ayishetu; Marta and Gurumpaɣa ask Alhaji Ibrahim to see their families
13.  Alhaji Ibrahim consulted elders for advice; advised only to marry two and not three
14.  Alhaji Ibrahim was working and was capable
15.  how Alhaji Ibrahim married Marta first; given to him through Mangulana’s father
16.  Alhaji Ibrahim married Gurumpaɣa next
17.  Ayishetu agrees for Alhaji Ibrahim to give her to Sumaani as a wife; their children
18.  Alhaji Ibrahim’s wives gave birth

Alhaji Ibrahim’s respect

19.  drummers do not suffer to get a wife; drummers have a good name
20.  how Alhassan used Alhaji Ibrahim’s name to get a wife
21.  how Alhaji Ibrahim helps people greet the family of a girl; example of man from Bimbila

Typical Dagbamba:  when a girl is promised

22.  greet the family with calabash of cola and money; maalams pray
23.  if the girl is still young, will remain with her parents; how they send to the husband’s family
24.  greetings and cola between the two families; how they talk
25.  maalam called for prayers; the girl is promised; the husband’s family returns home
26.  girl in parents’ house, the husband will send greetings, guinea fowls and yams during festival months
27.  if someone in the wife’s house dies, the husband will perform the funeral

The wedding and sending the wife to the husband’s house

28.  when girl reaches menstruation, they will set a day; Wednesday or Saturday
29.  send the girl to the husband; led by a small girl and a young boy who carries a stick
30.  new wife to room of a senior woman; slaughter a hen for the boy who brought the girl
31.  next day, they send the boy and girl home with cola and money to share to the witnesses
32.  husband must kill a hen to welcome her; she cooks and that night sleeps with the husband

How Muslims marry

33.  different from typical Dagbamba; drumming at the amaliya’s house
34.  pay sadaachi and gather items for the leefɛ:  send food; kanwa porridge
35.  sadaachi amount can vary; sometimes flexibility with the leefɛ
36.  women throw zabla night before the wedding

Tying the wedding

37.  Sunday weddings are common, especially  in towns; sometimes Thursday
38.  husband’s representatives and maalams at wife’s house; sadaachi paid
39.  cola for drummers; women dance at wedding house
40.  bride stays inside house; in night, she is bathed and led to the husband’s house
41.  next day cook food; the ones who brought the wife go home with gifts

How chiefs get their wives

42.  chiefs get many wives; did not pay; wives as gifts; bad girl can be given to a chief
43.  formerly chiefs could catch women as wives; would not catch a drummer’s wife or daughter
44.  no longer catch women; search for wives like other people

Advice to newlyweds

45.  advice to a daughter to respect the husband and his family
46.  new husband should work to provide for the wife; no roaming or chasing women

Engaged women who have sex before they go to their husbands

47.  typical Dagbamba used to send cola to wife’s family to show was a virgin or not
48.  formerly could be a case; if girl refused to show her lover, could be made a chief’s wife
49.  the case could result in debt for the person who had sex with the promised girl
50.  most men would not complain; the girl can refuse him if he collects money as compensation
51.  sometimes they would replace the girl who refused with her sister

Chiefs’ courts and civil courts in such cases

52.  at chief’s house, whipping a girl who refused to name her lovers
53.  those she named would face charges at the chief’s court; debt imposed
54.  after such a case, the marriage could stand or could be broken

Kidnapping and eloping

55.  sometimes people kidnap a girl; a case for the chief; still happens in villages
56.  in modern times, government courts overrule chief’s courts; spoils the custom
57.  sometimes the boy begs the court or the chief, and the elopement stands
58.  Alhaji Ibrahim sometimes begs the fathers of stolen girls

Government courts versus chiefs’ courts

59.  government courts follow money and lies; spoiled custom
60.  girls sometimes send their own case to the government courts; court rules for girl
61.  civil courts say girls should choose husbands; the chiefs’ courts are not to judge cases
62.  chiefs not longer judge; civil courts can make incorrect decisions from bribes; spoil custom
63.  Dagbamba chieftaincy has no strength; those with money cheat, and chiefs cannot act

Customary way of finding husbands for women:  better to look at the family of the man

64.  in Dagbamba custom, men who gave respect would get wives
65.  in Islam, fathers give daughters away but don’t force the girls; villagers hold older customs
66.  if daughter refused, typical Dagbamba removed her from the family
67.  now the parents ask the girl; many girls prefer the parents to find their husbands
68.  the girl chooses a man, the parents can agree with or refuse her choice
69.  the parents look at the family; refuse slave families, houses without food, even rich people
70.  girls’ choosing spoils custom; the father knows the family of the man better than the girl
71.  custom has strength, but white men and government spoiled the custom
72.  girls who choose often change their minds
73.  formerly girls did not complain; modern girls now choose; more confusion
74.  cannot compare custom to white man’s ways; better to choose the husband’s family
75.  typical Dagbamba used to remove girls from the family or even curse them


76.  transition to the talk of bachelors and women without husbands

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

Something which doesn’t want you is the thing you will spend a lot to get.

I will put him into a house.

Truly, when they say an old person doesn’t die, it doesn’t mean anything. If there is a person with sense in a family, and the elder person of the family dies, it shows that the elder person has not died.

I have just seen you to be somebody like my father. That is why I am greeting you.

God will never put me into shame.

As an elder man gets a wife to give to a younger man, so too a younger man can get a wife to give to an elder man.

A person’s good name gives him something.

Get this child, and she will be sweeping for you.

I have given this daughter to you to give her to your son, and she will be fetching water for your son to be drinking.

The sweetness of a marriage is food, and so may God let them get enough food to eat, and give them health, and give them clothes to wear, and give them children who will be good for them, and the children will follow the path of the Holy Prophet Mohammed.

If you give somebody a wife, you don’t have to tell him to sleep with her.

An elephant has stepped on a trap.

As the chief is for the food and the soup, the chief is also holding me and my daughter, and so there is no need of sending me cola.

Giving respect shows many things.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Gbonlana  (Gbɔŋlana)

Musical terms
Nagbiegu  (Naɣbiɛɣu)

Names and people
Abdul-Rahaman (Abdulai)
Abdulai (Ibrahim)
Adam (Alhasaan Mangulana)
Alhaji Shahadu (Issa)
Alhassan Lumbila
Alhassan (Ibrahim)
Ayishetu (wife of Sumaani)
Fatawu (Ibrahim)
Fati (wife of Abdul-Rahaman)
Fati (Sumaani)
Gurumpaɣa (wife of Alhaji Ibrahim)
Harruna (Sumaani)
(Alhaji) Ibrahim
Kissmal (Ibrahim Hussein)
Mahamadu (Sumaani)
Mangulana (Alhaji Adam Alhassan)
Marta (wife of Alhaji Ibrahim)
(Alhaji) Mumuni
Nanton Lun-Naa (Iddrisu)
Zuwera (Ibrahim)
Zuweratu (Sumaani)

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms
Buɣim Festival
cedi, cedis
Chimsi Festival
Damba Festival
Eid’ Festival
goonji, goonjis
guinea corn
kanwa kukogli  (kanwa kukɔɣli)
kagli  (kaɣli)
Kpini Festival
leefe  (leefɛ)
maalam, maalams
pesewa, pesewas
Holy Qu’ran
sagim  (saɣim)