A Drummer's Testament
Chapter II-2: How Drummers Search for Old Talks <PDF
How to acquire historical erudition; provenance of information
and unreliable information; tactics of approach; greetings and sacrifices;
sources for the work
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search
Contents outline by paragraph
<top of page>
1. which old talks are important for the work: how Dagbon started; how the towns started; how Dagbamba separated
The importance of provenance
2. available written accounts of origins are confusing; not inside drumming
3. knowledge should have a “father”: a source, or provenance
and differences of sources
4. sometimes people who don’t know a talk will say it; reasons why talks get mixed
5. example: getting directions from different people
6. different versions from
different fathers or teachers
7. not good to challenge one teacher
with another teacher's learning; just should compare
customs have no explanation; “we grew up and met it”
9. putting up barriers about subjects as a way to discourage inquiry; example: difficult sacrifices
10. better to say one does not know; then look for someone who knows
Differences in drumming knowledge
11. drumming knowledge compared to educational standards;
example: Naa Garba's children
12. greater or lesser extent of knowledge is measured but not demeaned
13. drummers from specific towns have local knowledge
Continued learning throughout life
14. most learning is achieved when young; householders do not have time; young drummers go around to different towns to learn; what they do to learn
15. older drummers who are householders can invite a drummer to stay with them; assume his responsibilities
Necessity of sacrifices, greetings, and giving respect
16. sacrifice as a part of the custom of learning
17. need to be responsible for one's own
search for knowledge
18. need to give respect of gifts or greetings to the one from whom one seeks knowledge
19. how Alhaji Ibrahim gives money
20. Nyologu Lun-Naa’s proverb in response to questioning
21. greetings and gift put someone into shame; will want to help because your goodness to him
John should continue greeting senior drummers
22. greetings give you a good name; greet Namo-Naa; John should also greet local elders Mangulana, Mba Sheni, Mumuni, Lun-Zoo-Naa
23. the elders know the strength of John’s friendship with Alhaji Ibrahim
24. greetings need not be large amounts; proverb about thread being stronger than a rope
25. market days are good days to send greetings to people in different towns
The drum chiefs as sources for the origins talks
26. early talks before Naa Shitɔbu are not widely known; not used in drumming work
27. senior drummers are the ones for reliable knowledge: Namo-Naa, Palo-Naa, Nanton Lun-Naa
28. Nanton Lun-Naa Iddrisu: his seniority
29. how to approach Nanton Lun-Naa or very aged informants
30. Namo-Naa has been a good source for the old talks; Palo-Naa should be the final source
Proverbs and Sayings <top
Every knowledge has a father.
It is good if you ask somebody a question, and the fellow knows it, and he is able to tell you he knows it.
Everyone with his teacher,
and everyone with his father.
If you eat food in a house with a lot of witches, you won’t know the one who killed you.
If you are coming to ask any learned person a question, ask him the
You have to take sense and patience when you are
searching for knowledge.
The one who refuses work is better than the one who spoils it.
No one knows everything in drumming.
Everyone has the extent he has asked.
As for wisdom, we only measure
All talks have their ends.
The talks of drumming have no end, and nobody learns all of drumming.
A stranger can never know the old guinea corn food.
Everybody knows his town’s talks.
We say that you have to lower yourself down before you pick something up. If you want to search for wisdom, you have to reduce yourself, and take yourself to be a slave.
You can only bend a fish when it is wet. If the fish becomes dry, can you bend it again?
And any work you do, you have to look to God.
How a sacrifice is: you are looking at God.
If you go to look for wisdom, you shouldn’t say that no one should cheat 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.
The water the fish comes out from is the same water that cooks it.
If you are a drummer who wants to learn more, the problem that you have, the answer is in your own skin.
If you want something, it will come from your own skin.
If you need a soothsayer, and the soothsayer is a cripple, you have to go and carry him to where you need him.
If you are holding your hand with your fingers closed, you will never get what you want. But whenever you open it wide, then you can get what you want.
Drummers use proverbs to do work.
The one who knows how to pet a rich
man, he is the one who will inherit the rich man’s property.
As for a dog, you will get a dog and put it down before they burn the bush.
A woman does not say “Thank-you” to the one who screws her.
If someone wakes you up in the night, you don’t have to ask him, “Who are you?”
Shyness is a human being.
A drummer is an old person.
Shame: if you put a person into too much shame, what he didn’t want to tell you, he will tell you.
If you are going to start some work tomorrow, then the work should start this evening.
Truly, a person doesn’t leave his house.
They don’t cross over the legs of a householder to enter into the room.
The tongue: can you count it inside fighting? You cannot count it like that, but it is inside fighting.
In Dagbon here, we don’t take rope and tie a person. We take a thread and tie him.
If you take a bow and an arrow and shoot into the air, and the arrow falls back to the ground without reaching the sky, don’t say that you are weak.
If we are going to talk about these old talks, our talk should have a father.
Very old people have no time to say many things.
You should try to take a stone and throw it inside a well and hear the sound.
Key words for ASCII searches <top
Names and persons
Alhaji Adam Mangulana
Mumuni (Alhaji Mumuni Abdulai)
Nanton Lun-Naa Iddrisu
Nyologu Lun-Naa Issahaku
Ollennu [Nii Amaa Ollennu]
Yakubuʒee [Harold A. Blair]
Towns and places