A Drummer's Testament   
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Chapter I-1:  The Benefits of Friendship and Why We Should Do the Work as a Group  <PDF file>

A story to stand for the work; Dagbamba folk stories and proverbs on friendship and knowledge; the importance of good character

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

Contents outline and links by paragraph  <top of page>

The story of the man and the dwarf

1.            introductory proverb
2-5.        the man and the dwarf meet in the bush
6-9.        their elders ask to meet the new friend
10-13.   they decide that the dwarf will go home with the man
14-16.   they discuss whether people will laugh at the dwarf
17.         a hunchback man laughs at the dwarf
18.         the dwarf treats the sickness of a blind man but adds to the sickness of the hunchback

Parallels to the friendship of John Chernoff and Alhaji Ibrahim

19.    the relation of the story and the project
20.    laughter and gossip about the friendship between John and the Dagbamba who work with him
21.    John in the position of the dwarf in the story
22.    how Dagbamba may be viewed by white people
23.    if the work fails, people will laugh at both friends

Intentions and foolishness

24.    what you wish shows your foolishness
25.    foolishness that has a purpose
26.    the importance of one’s intentions
27.    John’s intention to learn drumming; Alhaji Ibrahim’s intention to teach him

The responsibility of those who teach John

28.    story of the thief and the basket; the thief’s proverb
29.    explanation of the proverb with regard to the story
30.    explanation of the proverb with regard to how John’s work will be understood
31.    explanation of the proverb with regard to those who teach John

Recollection of John’s first training and Alhaji Ibrahim’s advice

32.    John’s frustration and Alhaji Ibrahim’s advice about patience
33.    advice about the intentions in one’s heart
34.    the heart knows whether the mouth is saying truth or lies
35.    Alhaji Ibrahim’s advice that John should never be annoyed; Alhaji Ibrahim’s awareness of John’s seriousness about learning
36.    advice that John should make himself small and make himself a fool
37.    the friendship of the Dagbamba toward John is promised and steady

Namo-Naa’s message and advice to John through Alhaji Ibrahim

38.    Namo-Naa’s question about the two important meats:  the heart and the tongue
39.    the heart and the tongue are the human being
40.    the heart and tongue let someone get something from another
41.    the heart is more important than the eyes
42.    the heart does everything

Drumming and living together will extend the friendship

43.    Alhaji Ibrahim could have refused John; but he gave John respect
44.    people know about the friendship of Alhaji Ibrahim and John;  friendship should be based on truth in order to last
45.    future history:  John’s children meet Alhaji Ibrahim’s children; how friendship expands
46.    Alhaji Ibrahim and John should respect their friendship
47.    the friendship is known to people in Dagbon; John’s lodging place
48.    many Dagbamba know about the friendship and are happy about how John is learning drumming
49.    Alhaji Ibrahim’s wish that the work will go forward well
50.    Alhaji Ibrahim’s happiness with the work and the extension of the work into these lectures
51.    the lectures will extend the drumming that is Alhaji Ibrahim’s work

The seriousness of the lectures about drumming to Dagbamba

52.    John should help with the lectures to make sure the work will be good
53.    the work will require planning, togetherness, and patience
54.    drummers talk about tradition; serious; some parts are hidden
55.    chiefs give gifts to a drummer who sings about tradition; sometimes sacrifices necessary for some drumming talks
56.    drumming's importance to the respect of chieftaincy; drumming's relationship to chieftaincy from it's starting
57.    drumming adds respect to everyone in Dagbon and every type of activity
58.    some people believe that talk about Dagbamba custom should not be shared; they would blame Alhaji Ibrahim
59.    Alhaji Ibrahim remains focused on respect and friendship
60.    the talks will present challenges to the friendship

Proverbs about the work

61.    how Alhaji Ibrahim will plan to do the talks; has started well
62.    proverbs have an important roles in the talks
63.    proverb examples
64.    explanation of the relation of the proverbs to the work and the group

The importance of friendship

65.    proverbs about friendship
66.    friendship is senior to family
67.    if you die, your knowledge can pass from your friend to your child
68.    the strongest friendship:  a husband and wife
69.    friendship is stronger than family in doing work

The importance of good intentions

70.    how good intentions will help the work
71.    John’s patience shows good heart
72.    drumming has helped Alhaji Ibrahim; wives and friends
73.    drumming like a lion; hold onto it and see its benefits

The importance of learning in a group

74.    John should add people to himself in learning drumming
75.    easier to learn in a group; a group will remember things
76.    John should bring others; witchfire proverb
77.    followers will extend the work John has done
78.    drummers enter everywhere in Dagbon; people like drummers, especially women and children
79.    how the children in Dagbon know John
80.    John should learn in a group and share knowledge, not hide it
81.    do the work with happiness and laughter; be attractive to people
82.    a bad person who follows into the work will not spoil it

The importance of good character

83.    John has shown good character and patience in learning; does not get annoyed
84.    good character helps get what one wants
85.    good character is recognized by people; one’s goos reputation will spread to other places
86.    good character brings people into a group
87.    leave behind those who do not have good character

Conclusion:  the fundamental proverbs of drumming

88.    the proverbs drummers first beat; Dakoli n-nyɛ bia
89.    conclusion:  the elders should be there for the children to learn from

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

A child has gone out and brought something that you don't know.

It is in your wish that people are going to see your foolishness. 

The intention you have in your heart, that is what is going to hold you in this world and in the next world. 

In what your heart wishes, your blame is small. 

If the basket is not ashamed, then the thief is not ashamed.

A person's intention is within the heart, and whatever intentions you have within your heart are going to be what you achieve. 

A lion from London, if he comes to the Northern Region here, he should take himself to be a cat. 

Patience gets everything but annoyance will let you go where you don't want to go.  [annoyance gets nothing]

If they slaughter a cow, and someone asks you to choose the important two meats in the cow, you should choose the heart and the tongue. 

The eyes can sleep, but the heart will not sleep.  If a person is sleeping and dreaming, it is the heart that sees.  And so the heart is the eyes.  And so it is the heart that sees first before the eyes. 

An elderly person will never be in the house, and they will spread the corn in the yard and rain will beat it. 

The place they love you, that is where you go and start pushing down things. 

If you are coming to build a room, and you don't make a good foundation, can you put up the building? 

As for salt, you don't need to praise salt, because everybody knows that salt is good. 

Seeing is believing. 

The one who gives you the medicine for your sickness, has he not bought the sickness? 

And I want to tell you that if you want to plan for the morning, you have to start planning in the evening for the next day's morning. 

As for a dance that dances all night, you have to dance it coolly. 

If you have something big inside the room and you want to carry it outside, you have to go outside and ask somebody to help you carry it. 

If you are going to war, and you haven't yet fought the war, they cannot yet give you a name for what you did in the war. 

When someone dies, you don't leave the dead person in the house and go to another house to cry. 

The thing that is worrying you is what you look after; you don't look into any other matter. 

It is better that they throw spears at you than they tell lies about you.  (Mamprugulana Tohigu Yeltabli gari kpani)

What is forbidden does not walk; it is waiting. 

Without drumming, there would be no respect in Dagbon. 

Not everybody can like a person. 

If they call you a monkey, you should let your tail be long.

Two wise men cannot sit together, but a wise man and a foolish man can gather.

If you go to look for wisdom, you shouldn't say you hear too much.  If you say that, you won't get what you want.  And if you say you see too much, you won't get what you want.  And you shouldn't say that no one will cheat you.  . . .  If you want to gain, you should pretend, and you should make yourself deaf and blind, and make yourself a fool, and I will be cheating you.  . . .  The time you come to know that someone is cheating you, if you say it, that is the time you can no longer get what you want from him. 

"Fall here and fall there:  that makes the playing of dogs to be nice."  Without "I fall and you fall," dogs cannot play.

It is proverbs a person takes to do work.

People have been asking of you.

What will let a hyena and a monkey meet?  (Savelugu-Naa Shiru, son of Naa Siɣli)

If you have a benefit in something bad, you can find the way to separate the benefit from the bad thing.

When they put a lion among sheep, the lion will become a sheep.

Friendship has no end.

Friendship increases.

Friendship brings family.  (Gbulun Jizaa-Naa Abudu)

Friendship is senior to family, and friendship is more than family. 

Good thoughts, good thoughts:  they do good work.

Drumming is like a lion that is lying down and you have come to hold it.  As you are holding the lion, you would not like to let it go.  You won't want to let it go because you will be thinking that if you let it go, it will catch you.  And as you are holding it, too, you are afraid.  You don't know that as you are holding it, truly, that is better than letting it go.  And so drumming is like that. 

As we have big men's graves in the cemetery, we have small boys' graves. 

A single finger cannot lift a stone.  But when the fingers group together, they can pick up a stone. 

There is benefit in a group. 

In Dagbani, we used to say that one person cannot do something that will be nice. 

A single person does not see witch-fire. 

Eye-seeing is better than ear-hearing. 

If you cook food and you give the best part to someone to eat, no matter how he eats it, it will not be sweet for him.  Why is it so?  He has not cooked it.

Those who have come first are lucky, and those who are behind should think.

If your child goes out and comes back to the house with a friend, then at that point you have to know that you have two children. 

Wisdom is in a group.

If you want to do work in front of people, you shouldn't tie your face.  You should be laughing and smiling, and you will get them. 

You can't take hot water to cook somebody, but you can take cold water and cook somebody very easily. 

You can be walking and holding your money, and it will fall into some shit along the road:  if you remove it and take water and wash it and make it fine and take it along, and no one is going to know, it doesn't matter. 

Someone's bad work has sent away his good work.

Truly, patience is in the heart. 

if you are a human being and you get up, you should hold good character. 

It is good character that brings people together in a group. 

Namɔɣ' yili mali kpiɔŋ, kpam!:  the house of the drummers has strength, plenty! 

Dakoli n-nyɛ bia, ka paɣalana n-nyɛ kpɛma:  a bachelor is a child, and a married man is the elder.

The one who has an elder to hold him will eat; the one without someone will not eat.

If God agrees and the Holy Prophet agrees, God should make the wall to be nice, and our elders will lean against the wall, and we the children will thank God.  (Naa Andani Jɛŋgbarga)

An exhausted old man, just leaning against the wall, is better than an old man who dies.

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Gbulun Jizaa-Naa Abudu
Naa Abudu
Naa Andani Jengbarga
Naa Sigli
Naa Yakuba
Nmantambu (Nanumba-Naa)  (Ŋmantambu)
Savelugu-Naa Shiru
Tohigu  (Mamprugulana)
Yeltabli gari kpani  (Mamprugulana Tohigu)

Musical terms
Dakoli n-nye bia, ka pagalana n-nye kpema.  (Dakoli n-nyɛ bia, ka paɣalana n-nyɛ kpɛma.)
gungon (guŋgɔŋ)
Mbayee namlana

Namog' yili mali kpiong, kpam!  (Namɔɣ' yili mali kpiɔŋ, kpam!)
Num' mal' lana, nun di; nun ka lana, nun' di di  (Ŋum' mal' lana, ŋun di; ŋun ka lana, ŋun' di di.)
Tin' kurli  (Tiŋ' kurli)
Shirla Namlana

Names and people
Alaasan Abukari
Alaasan {Ibrahim}
Alhaji Ibrahim
Alhaji Iddi (Yakubu)

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Miscellaneous terms