A Drummer's Testament
Chapter I-1: The
Benefits of Friendship and Why We Should Do the Work as a Group
A story to stand for the work; Dagbamba folk
stories and proverbs on friendship and knowledge; the importance of good
Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms
Contents outline and links by
story of the man and the dwarf
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
27. John’s intention
to learn drumming; Alhaji Ibrahim’s intention to teach him
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
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
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
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
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
importance of friendship
65. proverbs about
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
When they put a lion
among sheep, the lion will become a sheep.
Friendship has no end.
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
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
There is benefit in a
In Dagbani, we used to
say that one person cannot do something that will be nice.
A single person does not
Eye-seeing is better than
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
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
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
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 Andani Jengbarga
Nmantambu (Nanumba-Naa) (Ŋmantambu)
Yeltabli gari kpani (Mamprugulana Tohigu)
Dakoli n-nye bia, ka pagalana n-nye kpema. (Dakoli n-nyɛ bia, ka paɣalana
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)
Names and people
Alhaji Iddi (Yakubu)
Towns and places