A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter III-26:  The Life of Old People   <PDF file>

Old age and respect; status of old people; responsibilities of old age; the family head; how old people live; types of old age; lives of three old people compared and contrasted

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

Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>

The respect and works of old age

1.  old age come from God; many talks; respect for old person, rich person, chief, maalam
2.  comparison to chief, to rich person, to maalam with intelligence
3.  old age is not simply age or white hair; it is how one holds oneself
4.  old person holds himself; tried to repair things, whether succeed or fail
5.  old people consult and repair quarrels or problems that spoil people’s way of living
6.  in a quarrel, give the right to the elder person
7.  an old person holds people; acts as if blind and dumb and deaf, acts with patience
8.  an old person without people is not old; cannot hold his children; not a family head
9.  an old person is family head; old age is in the heart and will come into the open
10.  all family events and work require the presence of an elder; sacrifices
11.  old person also holds the area around a house; helps anyone in the area
12.  an old person’s presence reduces consequences at the chief’s court
13.  people put the old person’s name in front without informing him, and he accepts
14.  people do not argue with an old person who lies
15.  old age comes to someone who feeds and takes care of his housepeople
16.  an old person holds people in a house; housepeople farm and help him; give him leadership

The old age of women

17.  an old woman will get the same respect; has taken care of the children in the house
18.  respect an old woman who is a mother; fear of the mother’s house; can swear a curse
19.  people who are feared in a household:  mother, mother’s brother, father
20.  old woman without children also gets respect from housepeople
21.  an old woman with bad character does not get respect
22.  men have eldership more than women
23.  a woman whose old age would make her the family head will give the eldership to a man
24.  people will accuse the woman family head of witchcraft
25.  women know the family talks and teach the children; they get respect in old age; example:  Alhaji Iddi and his mother

Taking care of old people

26.  Dagbamba take care of their elders; food, clothing, gifts; God repays the good
27.  a good old person without children:  people take good care; it appears he has children
28.  if people let an old person suffer, their things will spoil
29.  if children neglect their old person, their mother or father can curse them
30.  old person’s talks stand and do work in a family; continuing presence

Old age and drumming

31.  transition to examples of old age among some drumming elders
32.  a drummer is an old person; knows the talks of yesterday; addressed as “grandfather”
33.  Alhaji Ibrahim is an old person in drumming because of his leadership; did not choose it
34.  Alhaji Ibrahim has shared money among drummers for thirty years, even in other towns
35.  an old person can talk of yesterday, today, and tomorrow

Alhassan Lumbila’s old age

36.  example:  the character of Alhassan Lumbila; how children followed him to the farm
37.  Alhassan’s relation to Mangulana and Sheni; Alhassan’s seniority in drumming
38.  Alhassan’s wives and children
39.  the incident of Gulkpe-Naa Iddi, Toombihi, and Alhassan Lumbila
40.  Alhassan received money from anyone who beat drumming in Tamale; his respect

Alhaji Adam’s old age

41.  Alhaji Adam has the same personality as Alhassan Lumbila; does not get annoyed
42.  the age of Alhaji Adam; the oldest drummer but does not have Alhassan’s old age
43.  Alhassan’s talk; Alhaji Adam does not get money like Alhassan; only Alhaji Ibrahim gives him his share
44.  proverb about white matter from the eye
45.  Alhaji Adam’s acknowledgment to Alhaji Ibrahim for helping him

Sheni’s old age

46.  Sheni is like a chief; how Sheni suffered for Alhassan Lumbila
47.  Sheni also has Alhassan’s character; white heart; his friendship with John
48.  why Sheni gives John money
49.  how Sheni greets Alhaji Ibrahim, despite being the elder
50.  Sheni knows many people; has more respect and more old age than Alhaji Adam

Comparing Alhaji Adam and Alhassan Lumbila

51.  Alhaji Adam has respect, but not up to his father’s; entered chieftaincy talk; Andani side
52.  Alhassan did not choose among drummers; took all to be his children; Tamale drummers are Abudu side
53.  Alhassan told Alhaji Adam that one day he would not get benefit; an old man’s talk happens


54.  the talk is relevant to all people, not just Dagbamba

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

The talk of old age is very big, and no one knows its end.

We don’t buy old age.  It is God Who gives it.

As for an old man, even God Himself said we should respect an old man.

There are four types of people in this world God said we should respect:  an old man, a chief, a rich man, and a maalam who has sense.

And God has said again that the person He likes is the one who becomes an old person.

Old age is in the heart, and how old age comes, it reaches a person.

As you grow old, you will know that old age is getting you.

If someone demeans an old person, he has demeaned God.

If you see a chief whom God has not made a chief, and it is that he has forced himself to become a chief, no one will give him respect.

You will see someone who is not a chief, but he’s a chief.

It is not force that gets money.

What God wants is what He does.

The white hair and white beard do not make someone an old person.

Someone may not be old, but he is old.  His hair is not white and his beard is not white, but he talks the talks of old men and he does things that look like an old person has done them.  As for his old age, it is God Who is making it and Who gives the tongue and the heart to that person.

If you eat some medicine which says no one can knock you, you should sit down quietly.

If God makes you an old person, you should catch yourself, cool your body, and hold yourself.

If you don’t take a load and put it on your thighs, you cannot carry it.

It is the child that spoils, and an old man will repair it.

In our Dagbon, when you are going to stop people from quarreling, you don’t ask the meaning of the quarrel.  If you ask what is under the quarrel, you are going to dig up the quarrel again.  And so you ask, “Who is senior?”

In our Dagbon, the one we call an elderly person is the one when some serious talk comes, he swallows it.  That is eldership, and there is no eldership apart from that.

“Wrong comes from the younger child, and wrong comes because he does not know.”

If you see old people in a group and you have all gathered to make something good, if an old person comes to call someone’s child useless, then it is that old person who is useless.

Old age is:  your eye has seen bad and you say you have not seen.  And your ear has heard, and you say you have not heard.  And your legs do not go by heart, and you don’t enter talks by heart.  And you become a dumb person, and you don’t talk by heart.

In our Dagbon, it is an old person who holds people.

When you hear people say that somebody is holding people, he is an old person.

An old person does not choose:  he gathers all of them and he holds them.

You don’t buy old age, and you don’t learn it, and you don’t get it with strength.  It is God’s gift.

In Dagbon here, it is an old person who is a family head.

Old age is in the heart, and it will be in the heart before it will come out to the open.

The heart, and patience, and holding people, all of this is inside old age.

Old age is like somebody who has money and puts it in a room and comes out and says he has no money:  whatever happens, the money will come outside and say that this person has money.

It is old age which will come out and a family will do work.

It is somebody who holds people who does wrong.  If you don’t have people, will you do wrong?

If there is a house and there is nobody in the house, will death go to that house?  Death does not enter an empty house.

And so if you hear that bad has come, it goes to someone who holds people.  And if it is something good that comes, it goes to someone who holds people.

An old person has no rest any day.

When God makes someone an old person, if he doesn’t know something and they give it to him, he will agree and say he knows it.  If he says he doesn’t know it, then he’s not an old person.

According to our custom, if you see that what an old person says is coming to be lies, you don’t mouth-argue.

It is old age that lets someone hold people, and somebody who holds people is an old person.

The person who gives you food to eat, you see him as your old person.

In Dagbon, we don’t play with our mother’s house, and we fear the mother’s house.

Someone who has not given birth and also has bad character, it is always night for her.  She is like a blind person, because as for a blind person, it’s always night every day.

A woman cannot cut off the head of a snake.

There are some works which a woman cannot do.

A woman cannot talk a talk that will stand.

A woman is like a watch:  if you have a watch and you hold it and say that you trust your watch, maybe someday you will see that you don’t trust your watch again.

In our Dagbon, we say that a woman does not become old.

The old age of a man is more that the old age of a woman.

A woman does not become a family head.

If something happens on the part of the family, they are going to search for a man.

If it is old age talks, they will search for a man.

Does a wolf eat the butcher’s chieftaincy?

If a goat is missing, they say that a wolf has caught it; if a cow is missing, they say that a wolf has caught it.

A woman doesn’t forget.

The women talk a lot about the family, and they show the children much about it.

Giving birth to children is just like playing the lottery:  you don’t know who will gain from the children.

As the old person is eating the sweet food, he will be praying to God for those people who are giving this food to him, and those people will not become useless.

If the old person is not there again, even if you don’t have a child, God will get somebody from your family, and that child will do for you what you were doing for the old person.

Somebody who eats suffering on the part of family talks, and he has no child, and those who have given birth to us have given us to him, we are going to perform his funeral on the part of God and the suffering that fellow suffered for us and for the dead people.

We Dagbamba fear, “This fellow:  he has no child.”

Such children have paid back their father’s debt, the debt their father ate from their grandfather.

If I also did that to my father or my mother, then you should do that to me.  But if I didn’t do that to my father or my mother, then your eyes will come to see.  What is behind my back, after me, your eyes will see it.

Inside a family, the talk of an old person doesn’t die.

If an old person is not there, every day he is there.  His work will not finish.  It is like a book he has written.  Anyone who takes the book will say that it was this person who wrote it.  Here it is:  is he dead?

Any family that is good, it will never finish.

It is God Who gives old age.

A white beard is like a white horse:  it has white hair but it is not old.

How old age comes, an old person is older than a child.

An old person knows what was there yesterday and what was not there yesterday, and a child does not know it.

If someone is not older than a child, but he has heard the talks of yesterday, then he is older than a child.

A child who sits with old people is also an old person.

We drummers have heard the talks of old people, and we talk the talks of old people.  And so any person who talks about old things is an old person.

The heart:  that has made me an old person.  And patience:  that has made me an old person.

As for the talks about old age, everyone will know it to his extent.

If God has made you small and you want to be big, you will lose.  And if God makes you big and someone says he will make you small, whatever he does, he cannot make you small.

It is not the one who has a white beard.

If you sit for five minutes with an old person, it’s better than sitting for five hours with someone who is not old.

An old man’s talk does not remain useless.

The mouth that an old man takes to talk, and he talks tomorrow’s talks, you will see that the talk does not die.

Old age is like talking.  Talking does not die.  If talking were dying, nobody would have sense.  And old age comes to resemble this.

What an old man talks, if it is tomorrow’s talks, you will see that it will come and stand.

If you have your way of living and you bring forth your child, or they give a child to you to bring up, whatever happens, the child will take your way of living.

If you are the old person in your area, every child will get some of your way of living.

When an elephant brings forth its child, even if the child is not up to the elephant itself, it will be up to a hippopotamus.

They remove the white matter from the eye and show it to the eye.

In Dagbon here, of all the talk we fear, we fear the talk of an old man.

When and old man is alive and he tells you something, what he talks does not eat you unless he dies.

Sometimes you will give somebody a gift and he will also give you a gift.

Our old men say that if a small boy does not visit an old man, then the old man should visit the child.

It is a child who will get up to hold an old person.

All the works Alhassan was able to get, it was because he was not choosing.  All the drummers in this town, and all the drummers in all the towns, Alhassan took all of them to be his children.

An old man’s talk does not remain useless.

When an old man says anything, it will happen.

No one dies without a reason.

As for death, if someone dies, they will say that this thing killed him or that thing killed him.  But even if it were not this thing or that thing, he will die.

Because of death, no one is going to remain in this world.

This talk is everybody’s talk.

Somebody can have something good to sell and will not know how to sell it.  And somebody will come, and wake him, and buy a little of it, and go, and it will come to benefit all of them.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Dimabi Lun-Naa
Gulkpe-Naa Iddi
Magaazhia  (Magaaʒia)
Naa Andani
Nanton Lun-Naa
Tampion Sampahi-Naa
Tolon Lun-Naa Mushee  [father of Alhassan Lumbila]

Names and people
Alhaji Adam (Alhassan) [Mangulana]
Alhaji Iddi (Yakubu)  [neighbor of Alhaji Ibrahim]
Alhassan (Lumbila)
Alhassan Lumbila  [early Tamale drumming leader; father of Alhaji Adam]
Ayishetu   [Komlana of Alhassan Lumbila, mother of Yisifu]
Fatima  [wife of Alhassan Lumbila, mother of Alhaji Adam]
Fuseini (Alhassan)  [Fuseini Jeblin, child of Alhassan Lumbila]
Shebli  [child of Alhassan Lumbila and Shetu]
Sheni  [M'ba Sheni, Fusheni Alhassan]
Shetu [Shetubila]  [wife of Alhassan Lumbila]
Sugri  (Suɣri)  [wife of Alhassan Lumbila and mother of Fuseini Jeblin]
Yisifu (Alhassan)  [guŋgɔŋ beater; child of Alhassan Lumbila]

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms
guinea fowl
gungon  (guŋgɔŋ)