So, What Is the Story Behind This Name?: Royal Praise-Poetry As an Oral Mythic Narrative

So, What Is the Story Behind This Name?: Royal Praise-Poetry As an Oral Mythic Narrative

Abdulai Salifu
Indiana University

Abstract
The Dagomba praise singing genre of northern Ghana employs figurative language to recapture historical events in the political life of the people. A reigning chief occupies a central, pivotal position in the daily life of the community and is seen as a reincarnation of his ancestors, whose exploits are used to praise him or her. Royal praises rely on stories which depict supernatural ancestral achievements. This piece looks at the metaphors and mythical elements to be found in the language used to praise a chief during a social event in Tamale, Ghana, and focuses on the mythical elements in the praise song, based on real historical events. This happens in the context of a revered epic tradition at a Dagomba King’s palace.


The praise names drummers sing or use to address their patrons at ceremonies are abridged historical mythic narratives, taken from the myths and legends of the Dagbamba (also called Dagombas) of Northern Ghana. The narration assumes mythical dimensions and religious beliefs and practices are woven into the telling of the tale.


This paper centers on the work of a drummer caste of northern Ghana whose main function is entertaining, educating and informing the local populace. Dagomba drummers are cultural performers who compose praise epithets (also called “names”) for their patrons. A praise epithet or names could be as simple as a single word or noun phrase, a sentence, or a whole passage. The lore of the drummers presents a metaphor of life, one that mirrors the goings on in the society. As cultural commentators and historians, these drummers pursue a means of livelihood by drumming at functions and being rewarded by patrons; they also act as tradition bearers in their keeping of the oral histories of the ethnic group. A praise names usually encodes a history that gave it birth. This paper is thus one such attempt at telling the story behind some praise names.

Praise uttering and singing, known as salima, is an integral part of the customs and traditions of the Dagomba and their sister ethnic groups (Mamprusi and Nanumba) of Northern Ghana. Salima(n) means “stories”, “praises” or “eulogies.” This genre of music in Dagbani, highly proverbial in nature, is used in praising historical personages.  Dagbani is a language spoken by an ethnic group that occupies an area to the north-east of the Northern region of Ghana called Dagbon. The language belongs to the central Gur language group of the Volta-Congo language family and is closest to Mampruli and Nanuni (Abdulai Salifu 2000: 1) languages spoken in northern Ghana.

These societies are patriarchal in nature, with the chief occupying a central, pivotal position in the daily life of the community. A reigning chief is seen as a reincarnation of his ancestors, whose exploits are used to praise him or her. Innes (1974) says that praise names are not just mere recital of events. It is the repetition of the praise names, which stirs the blood and makes the listener swell with pride.  Villages/towns are in a hierarchy, with Yendi (the seat of the King) at the head of the pile.

I have lived with these people and observed the use of such praises, which are associated with kinship and royalty. The praises rely on stories which depict supernatural ancestral achievements. I would like to dwell on the metaphors and mythical elements to be found in the language used to praise a chief. Christine Oppong (1973: 54) observes that the drummers (lunsi) in Dagbon are court historians and musicians and their unbroken historical narratives are very vital to the continuity of the traditional system. These drummers/praise singers are found at all social events, and at royal courts. This paper focuses on the mythical elements in the praise songs, as used within the context of an epic tradition at a Dagomba King’s palace.

Africans generally have an extended family system, and there is a connection of kinship among a cross section of the inhabitants of the community. People trace ancestral trees, with lineages sometimes spanning centuries, and feel a sense of pride to be associated with a venerable king. The praise names used in the drummers’ songs encode these family histories.

Two events got me interested in the stories behind praise phrases. The first involved a friend of mine, called Abukari, who hails from the royal house of Karaga, an important Dagomba town. He is a descendant of a once powerful King of Karaga, Naa Bukali (same as Abukari), who reigned at the turn of the twentieth century. On this occasion, a drummer addressed him as, “the one who travels with a thousand musicians, friend of the Englishman.” I asked what that meant. The answer given was that I should listen to Mogulo’s songs. Further enquiry led to the second incident, where I was shown the tomb of this King, at Nyanshegu, a suburb of Tamale.  “So, how come the tomb of so prominent a chief as Kar’ Naa Bukali (who died in 1920) is here and not at Karaga?” I asked. He replied with another question. “Oh, haven’t you heard Mogulo’s song on this name?”  “I think I have, but could you retell it to me?”  I implored. These were exchanges that first set me on the road to getting interested in these “name-stories” and the awe in which those who come to be associated with these ancestors are held. Kar’naa Bukali was a wealthy chief who always travelled with a large retinue of musicians to entertain him, and also recognized as the most trusted of the chiefs under the colonial administration of the British Crown in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast.

The praise names drummers sing or use to address their patrons at ceremonies are abridged historical mythic narratives, taken from the myths and legends of the Dagbamba (also called Dagombas) of Northern Ghana.  Mary Esther Kropp-Dakubu and Cathleen Read (1985: 25) observe that most royal appellations in Dagbon begin with words or short phrases, to which no meanings could be attached. I disagree with this assertion. The events at which these words or short phrases are uttered do not usually present enough time for the praise singer to be able to present full length names. I therefore make a case here that a bard’s simple address such as, ŋun kuri ka chen dari sheba (he who kills some and then buys others), has a meaning to a patron. Given a longer period, this can be expanded into the epic story of Naa Luro’s, where the hero fought an epic battle in which an enemy force was totally defeated. This event foregrounds the tradition of epic song performance in Dagomba land. “Bi su bia balim timda” – (one has to plead with another person’s child to run an errand for him/her) is a line in a praise name of Kumbuŋ which is an important town in the Dagbon state. It can be used as part of the praises of a royal or whoever is close to the Kumbuŋ royal house. These praise names present a unique system of tracing people’s origins.

Praising Patrons
The praise singers found at social events function as the bearers of tradition and are given monetary rewards for their enterprise. They have a poetic license, which has its genesis in the epic battle Naa Luro (1554-1570) fought against the Gonja1 king Dajia. After he triumphs over Dajia, Luro invites the drummers to accompany him with praises to his palace. They break a dish, and in the ensuing exchanges he decrees that thenceforth no drummer should be sanctioned at the palace. This underscores the importance of the drummers and their lore in the social life of the people. The chief is the people’s socio-political and spiritual leader, and his palace is the nexus of all social life in the kingdom. Festivals and other gatherings take place at the big compound that surrounds his palace, which is usually the largest in the town. The palace is thus the theater where most of the performances occur.

Mythic Elements in Salima
Myths are stories that are dear to a people. Religious beliefs and practices are woven into the telling of the tale, which could be contradictory or even sound nonsensical. The stories that are told are viewed as ancestral wisdom, and their veracity is not challenged. The audience somehow suspends their disbelief.
Mythic narratives are considered true events of the past, often involving animals, deities, or culture heroes of yore. According to Finnegan (1998:330), myths serve to uphold the present structure of society in general and fulfill the function of providing a model through which people can verbalize the relationships and constitution of their society. The major property of a myth is that its actors are supernatural, and this puts this genre in the realm of religion. Where the hero is human, the narration becomes a legend, and this puts it in a secular character. This distinction is deficient because, much as we agree that myths are religious in character, we also have legends that make use of the supernatural. The Luro story I use for the present analysis can variously be tagged myth and legend. Naa Luro is a historical human character who has been canonized into an ancestral spirit and invoked today in times of need by his descendents. Dagombas have a strong attachment to their land, which has been bequeathed to them by the ancestors. The narratives encompass these sentiments, one of the reasons they went to war on many occasions in the pre-colonial era. The war Luro fought in the latter part of the sixteenth century was to drive out an occupying Gonja force from Dagombaland.

I will now tell the story that kindled story that kindled my interest to undertake this inquiry.  Kar’ Naa Bukali was friends with the colonial British administrator in Tamale at the time Dagbon was split between the Germans to the east and the British to the west. Upon re-unification, a leadership crisis arose with the death of the Yaa Naa. Kar’ Naa Bukali was the first son of the chief of Korli, Kor’ naa Mahama. While still a regent upon his father’s death, he ascends to the skin2 of Sunsoŋ, and then proceeds to Karaga, a higher title. It is when he is Chief of Karaga that Yaa Naa Alhassan 1899-1917 dies. There is a struggle for leadership among the princes, and the Colonial Commissioner of The Northern Territories steps in to resolve the impasse. The song gives a graphic narration of the summons to Tamale, from the stage where Kar’ Naa Bukali is given a poisoned cup of wine until he dies at Nyanshegu and explains the protocol that has to be followed to announce his passing. Emissaries transmit the message from village to village along the route from Tamale to Karaga. The story is lent credence in the actual names of places and persons that are mentioned. This is also referenced in Cardinal (1975).

The story behind the praises directed to Gukpe Naa (the chief of Tamale), by his head drummer presents a lot of interesting mythical material. King Luro (1554-1570) is the thirteenth in the line of Dagomba Kings. He is born to King Zolugu and Bitambipiligu3, an old woman from Nyamandu, a village near Tamale. This is a person of miraculous birth. Like Prophet Abraham in Judeo-Christian history, his mother was far into menopause at the time of his delivery. Luro is reputed to be the King who has been chief of more villages/towns than any other in Dagomba history. Prior to ascending the Yendi4 Skin he had assumed forty chieftaincy titles. This in itself is legendary, because princes were in constant competition for vacant titles. This is a trend that can still be found in this twenty first century, and they would go to any length, including resorting to murder, guile, or sorcery, to achieve their goals. Like the Mandekan hero Son-Jara5 of Mali, Luro’s maternal grandfather was an earth-priest, from whom he inherited a lot of magic. One has to be almost supernatural to achieve such a feat as Luro did.

In the main story, Naa Luro becomes King at the height of Dagomba-Gonja rivalry. This was also a period of internal wranglings among rival princes in Dagbon for royal positions. Many Dagomba towns fall to the Gonja king during this period of disunity. Then Luro eventually decides to fight him. The epic battle between Luro and Kalogisi Dajia, the dimunitive Gonja king, is the climax of the epic session. Dajia has a mythical stature. His powers far outweigh his physical appearance. Three successive bows that normal full grown men would use prove inferior to him, and a metallic one bends in his hands when he draws on it. Dajia tells Luro:

“Son of the First wife who hails from Nyamandu,
Give me a bow. I have no bow”…
And they went into the forest
And saw a very supple tree…
And they fashioned it into shape…
And Dajia tested the bow
And the bow broke…
Three such bows.
[They] fashioned a metallic bow,[and when]
…Dajia drew on the bow
And the bow,
And it bent…

These lines indicate that Dajia has a super natural stature, yet he must be vanquished in order to make King Luro the epic hero. This squaring off and pitting of magical powers against each other was the manner in which epic challenges were held. This is reminiscent of the battle between David and Goliath, except that ‘Goliath’ wins in this instance.
The diminutive Dajia challenges Luro to a duel, which the latter accepts. This leads to the climax, at which the two display magical powers:

And Dajia’s arrow went, bam!
And Naa Luro vanished,
And the arrow followed.
Then King Luro dipped into his bullet proof smock
And removed an amulet,
And deflected the arrow.
And the arrow went and hit an African mahogany tree,
And the mahogany dried up
And dried up real bad.

Three times they engage in trading powers until King Luro in another somewhat fantastic manner impales Kalogisi Dajia from head to anal orifice, after resorting to invocations of supernatural elements including the use of curses and invocation of ancestral spirits. The narration is traditional in its maintaining of cultural fact and artifact. The institution of chieftaincy is sacrosanct, and its histories are regarded as near sacred. The success of this story, however, depends on the virtuoso of the drummer-performer, who knows when to embellish, and when to give straight fact. The story is a well known one in Dagomba history. Like the Homeric or Serbo-Crotian epics, the length of a narration depends on the virtuosic ability of the singer. The rhetorical questions, quoted speech and exploration of space add dramatic effect to narration.

The singer has an opening and a closing formula and intersperses his story with addresses directed to his present, as well as legendary historical, audiences. He uses transition markers, like “di ka la dabaayi ni ata” (Literally: It was not quite two days or three, i.e. not long afterward) to both show continuity in his narration and indicate a new phase of the story. This is a feature of oral genres, where episodes are marked by time devices (when, then). These also give room for the narrator to quip in comments. These transition markers guide the audience through the narration. The conjunctions such as “and” and “then” are the most frequent. The use of the progressive tense also gives us a sense of motion during the duel. Dajia runs towards Luro’s party:

And started crying
And started running towards the warriors.
And King Luro and his troops
And they were coming home.
And Dajia came running
And crying
And biting his fingers….
And Dajia told Luro, “ get ready,
Dajia is coming
And Dajia told Luro, “get ready,
I am coming.”
Dajia is about to shoot, Dajia is shooting,
Dajia is shooting Dajia is shooting,
And Dajia’s arrow goes, bam!

The bard makes use of kinship terms to accomplish personal address and to also identify with the story. Reference is made to ancestors, grandfathers, son, mother, wife, and the use of in-group language. The narrator integrates himself into the plot, utilizing inclusive address terms, “my lord”, “and our grandfather”, “our King”. He also purposely uses the second person possessive pronoun “your” when he refers to King Luro (For example: “Your grandfather Luro”) to make his patron feel he is the heir to the glory that ancestor of his brought to the Dagbon Kingdom. The narrative is also etiological in nature, telling us how the word Zabaga (Gonja) came into being, how the river Yiliŋga was renamed Namkabiem, and how Luro got the drummers to sing his praises after his victory.

Another name that encodes a mythic story is Daworita nabira, kuya nabiya – “Split firewood has multiplied, so have the funerals”. The story behind this is that King Zulandi (1432-1442) and his son Naɣlɔɣu died on the same day. The son dies first, but the old King delays the announcement of the younger man’s passing, and commits suicide. He does this so that it will appear as if he died first and the son subsequently died from heart-break. He wanted the son to be counted among past Kings, so he makes the ultimate sacrifice, in the epic tradition. Zulandi’s sacrifice pays off, for not only does Naɣlɔɣu get a place in the assembly of past kings but his other son, Zolugu, who is Naɣlɔɣu’s younger brother, ascends to the throne. A praise poem thus comes to be associated with a personality, and is synonymous with his/her name. A praise name is thus an abridged “story” which requires some contextual knowledge in order to be appropriately interpreted.

Potential For  These Songs to Bring About New Conflict
Relations between Dagombas and Gonjas have not been too cordial over the centuries, and stories like the current one will best not be narrated where Gonjas predominate. Many praise names also tend to be proverbial and sarcastic, and are targeted at perceived rivals or foes. People choose such names to lampoon, cast insinuations or even insult others. Such narratives have the potential to cause conflict, if the target of such verbal messages, their relations, or descendants happen to be present at the place of performance. This is the theme for another study I am doing.
David Locke (1990: 12) explains the use of such proverbial language when he cites Yaa Naa Andani’s (1876-1899) praise name dance, Naani goo (the trusted thorn). Upon the death of his predecessor, Andani rose above a very stiff opposition and ascended the skin. He chose the praise name “Kulbona je ŋama ka ŋama bilinda” (the streams have refused the hippopotamuses, but the hippopotamuses roll on). This was to spite his brothers and cousins, who continued to conspire against him; and his drummers had the following appellation for him:

It is he who knows you, who kills you
Surely it is your trust that destroys you
Your uncle’s son – he is your assailant
Give false trust and die
Beware of the trusted thorn.

While cautioning him against giving absolute trust to a relative, such proverbial and potentially incendiary poetry as found in praise names has the potential to breed violence. Dagbon has seen many intra group battles, the latest among which culminated in the assassination of the King, Yakubu Andani II in March 2002.

Conclusion
The drummers’ craft is both an economic endeavor and a cultural responsibility. These two roles can be broadly seen as synchronic and diachronic, respectively. While their art meets their current economic needs, the drummers also serve as living archives and the collective memory of the populace. Their praise poetry rekindles in their patrons that sense of belonging to a rich cultural system that transcends time. The present is what it is because it has a link with an antecedent time. Dagomba praises thus encode history, just as much as they offer commentaries on political figures. Each praise epithet has a history, and depending on the situation, a short praise epithet can be expanded into hours of narrative text that evoke the myths and legends of the ethnic group.

Notes:

1The Gonja is the second dominant ethnic group in Northern Ghana, and this ethnic group has the largest land cover in Ghana. There are about sixty different ethnic groups in the country.

2Dagomba chiefs/kings sit on animal skins. The skin is akin to the ‘throne’.

3Literally  means “They have forgotten their origins”

4Yendi is the capital of the Dagomba kingdom

5See John William Johnson (1992: 9).

Bibliography:

Bascom, William R. 1965. “The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives”. Journal of American Folklore 78: 3-20.

Finnegan, Ruth.1998. Oral Literature in Africa. Nairobi: Oxford University Press.

Innes, Gordon. 1990. “Formulae in Mandinka Epic: The problem of Translation.” The Oral Performance in Africa, Isidore Okpewho, ed., Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd.,  101-110.

Johnson, John William. 1992. The Epic of Son Jara. A West African Tradition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kropp-Dakubu, Mary Esther and Cathleen Read. 1985. “Language and Music in the Luŋa Drumming of Dagbon: A Preliminary Study.” Papers in Ghanaian Linguistics 5:  20-31.

Locke, David. 1990. Drum Damba. Indiana: White Cliffs Media Company.

Mogulo, Issahaku. n.d. Kar’ naa Bukali. Audio tape.

Peek and Yankah, eds. 2004. African Folklore: An Encyclopedia. NY: Routledge, 280-282.

Salifu, Abdulai. 2000. Communicating with the Chief: Ethnography of Royal Discourse in Dagbon. M.Phil, University of Ghana, Legon.

Sulemana, Tia.1970. Naa Luro mini o Bihi. Accra: The Presbyterian Press.

Yakubu Iddi (Toombihi Wulana). October 5, 2004. Naa Luro. Audio Recording.

Appendix:

Gukpe Naa Luŋa
Naa Luro, warring, Gonja, KalɔFisi Dajia

Not long afterwards
And they ended the battle,
and were victorious
and King Luro wiped out the Gonjas totally.
Nobody remained
except a woman and a man
and put them under a tree
“cringe here
your name is those-who-cringe
you are no longer called Koluŋ”
And he named them those-who-cringe
And spared them.
It remained a man and a woman
Then King Luro got up from Koluŋ
The King had secured an absolute victory,
And returning home.
Not long afterwards,
And Kalɔgisi Dajia (short Gonja man) appeared.
The day Dajia arrived at Koluŋ
And appeared
And King Luro, Zolugu’s son, He and his troops
And they were headed for home
They are returning home.
And Kalɔgisi Dajia,
And he descended
At Koluŋ.
When he arrived at Koluŋ
He saw no one.
They had totally wiped out the people.
None of his folk was alive.
Except a man and a woman.
And Kalɔgisi Dajia, and he started biting
his fingers and crying.
“I wasn’t home and an insignificant thing has overwhelmed me, yee!
I am home and an insignificant thing has overwhelmed me, yee.
An insignificant thing has overwhelmed me
An insignificant thing has overwhelmed me
I would have done something.”
And started crying
And started running towards the warriors.
And King Luro and his troops
And they were coming home.
And Dajia came running
And crying
And biting his fingers.
And the King looked behind him
And saw a child.
And told his troops
“Stop!
We have fought a battle
And we have been victorious
Someone has left his child behind
Let’s catch the child”
Little knowing it’s a lethal thing.
It wasn’t long
Then the child came wailing
Short man
Kalɔgisi Dajia
Little knowing it was a diminutive adult, and not a child.
And Dajia arrived.
KalɔFisi Dajia, yee!
Wonderful Dajia, yee!
And he arrived
Biting his fingers and crying.
And said, “I wasn’t home and an insignificant thing has overwhelmed me
An insignificant thing has overwhelmed me
An insignificant thing has overwhelmed me
I would have made the difference.”
Then, your grandfather Luro, Zolugu’s son, God’s servant,
Man of Action,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu
King Zolugu son, Man of Action.
And he told Dajia,
“Had you been home
What could you have done?
Then he said, “My Lord, if I were home I’d have shown action”
Then he said, Go ahead and show action
Then he said, “King Luro, Zolugu’s son, give me a bow, I have no bow
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, give me a bow
I have no bow.
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu give me a bow
I have no bow.
Then he let the war—
(His troops–),
And they went into the forest,
And saw a very supple tree
And they cut it
And fashioned it into shape
And brought it
And gave it to King Luro, Zolugu’s son
And he gave it to Kaloɔgisi Dajia, I say,
And Dajia tested the bow.
And the bow broke
And he threw it away
And said, “Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu give me a bow
I can find no bow.”
And they went back
Into the forest
And saw a stronger wood,
And they cut it
Fashioned a bow,
And gave to Kalɔgisi Dajia, I say.
And Dajia tested the bow.
And the bow broke.
And KalɔFisi Dajia,
And he told Luro,
Zolugu’s strong son,
“Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu give me a bow
I can find no bow.”
Three such bows.
That day,
Your ancestor King Luro, Zolugu’s strong son ,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, The Energetic one,
Warlike woman’s son,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu young, Luro,
Then he told his head blacksmith, Sonaa Faamuru
No matter his ingenuity he cannot fashion a tooth
No matter his artistry he cannot craft a tail.
Son of a creator, he’s ingenious, but cannot create character.
“ Fashion me a metallic bow
And fashion a metallic string, and bend it
And I’ll give it to Dajia
And he’ll show action for me to see.”
And Sonaa Faamuru and his followers, I say,
They put an anvil in place
And started using the bellows
And fashioned a metallic bow
And fashioned a metallic string
And bent it
And brought it to King Luro, Zolugu’s son.
And he gave it to Kaloɔgisi Dajia, I say,
And Dajia drew the bow.
And the bow,
And it bent.
That day on which Dajia drew on the bow
And the bow bent
And he told Luro, Zolugu’s son The humble one
“I take—-I will take it–
–Will make do with it.
I will make do with the metallic bow, on the battle ground.
I will make do with the metallic bow, on the battle ground.
I will make do with it.
Get ready.
Just get ready “.
Kalɔgisi Dajia,
Dajia is also ready.
Dajia is coming
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, I say,
“King Zolugu son, young Luro get ready.
Just get ready.”
And Dajia told Luro, Zolugu’s son,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu
And the king dismounted from his horse, then
And let them doubly tighten his horse’s saddle-girth
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu,
Then the King mounted.
When the King mounted the horse that day,
And Dajia told Luro, “ get ready,
Dajia is coming
And Dajia told Luro, “get ready,
I am coming.”
Dajia is about to shoot, Dajia is shooting,
Dajia is shooting, Dajia is shooting,
And Dajia’s arrow went, bam!
And Naa Luro vanished,
And the arrow followed.
Then King Luro dipped into his bullet proof smock
And removed an amulet
And deflected the arrow
And the arrow went and hit an African mahogany tree,
And the mahogany dried up
And dried up real bad,
Not long after that
And King Luro, Zolugu’s son,
And he dismounted,
And Kalɔgisi Dajia, and he told him,
“Two arrows to go!
Get ready”
Kalɔgisi Dajia then sat on a horse.
Kalɔgisi Dajia then got ready
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu,
And let them doubly tighten his horse’s saddle-girth,
Then he mounted
Dajia is about to shoot, Dajia is shooting, I say,
Dajia’s arrow goes bam!
And Naa Luro vanished,
And the arrow followed.
Then King Luro dipped into his bullet proof smock
And removed an amulet
And deflected the arrow
And the arrow went and hit an African oak tree,
And the African oak tree dried up
And dried up real bad that same day,
Not long afterwards
King Zolugu’s son, Merciful King,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, Merciful King,
And King Luro dismounted
And squatted,
Left the environment
And started invoking curses on Dajia,
“Kalɔgisi Dajia, if it is I who have given you a bow,
Kalɔgisi Dajia, if it is I who have given you a bow,
And you want to use it to kill me in the bush, for no reason,
Dajia.”
That day, Kalɔgisi Dajia
Then he said, “My Lord, get ready,
The arrow that is left, won’t-sit-on-the-ground is the one remaining.”
And King Luro let them doubly tighten his horse’s saddle-girth,
Then he mounted
And they doubly tightened the horse’s saddle-girth,
Then climbed and sat down
The moment the King sat—- mounted the horse
And Kalɔgisi Dajia told Luro, Zolugu’s son
“Get ready, I am coming.

The arrow that remains, won’t-sit-on-the-ground is the one remaining”
And then, the King sat on the horse
He ha has heaped curses on Dajia like food in a dish
And Dajia told Luro, Zolugu’s son
“I am coming
Dajia is shooting, Dajia is shooting, I say
Dajia is shooting, Dajia is shooting, And Dajia’s arrow went, bam!
And King Luro vanished–
–Divided into two,
With one half on the horse and the other in high above.
The King’s body won’t rejoin, Dajia’s arrow won’t fall on the ground.
Not long afterwards,
Then King Luro dipped into his bullet proof smock
And removed an amulet,
And deflected the arrow
And the arrow missed
And went and hit the ground,
And the King joined together.
And then sat on the horse.
He made the arrow miss
And Dajia’s arrow hit the arrow
And our King joined together again
And sat on the horse
And became human
And dismounted
And told Kalɔgisi Dajia
“ It’s your turn to get ready.
I too, am coming“.
When King Luro sat on his horse
Then Dajia turned to run
Your grandfather Luro, Zolugu’s son, I, tell you,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu,
Son of warlike woman,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, Zolugu’s son, God fearing King.
And King Luro held his male spear in his hand
And Dajia turned to run, and he threw the spear at him
And the spear–
–The crest of his head
And exited through his anus
And turned him upside down, boom!
And Dajia left the living and descended to the dead that day
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, Zolugu’s son, I tell you,
And the King danced round with his horse and removed his spears
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, Zolugu’s son, I tell you,
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, I tell you,
King Zolugu’s son, I tell you,
And the King then cut off Dajia’s head, I tell you.
And the battle ended.
And the battle ended in totality
And the King prepared
And removed his spears
And started,
He and his armed forces booming
Until they got to the river Namkabiem.
And crossed the river
Crossed to the other bank
The river used to be called Yiliŋga
It was King Luro who camped there
(- It’s Dagombas’ embellishment-
That has changed its name to Namkabiem.)
This river at Gushie was called Yiliŋga
It was King Luro who camped there, and it was renamed Namkabiem.
It was at Namkabiem your grandfather Luro camped.
Your grandfather Luro
Your grandfather Luro
Hail Zolugu’s son, the virtuous King
Son of the first wife, who hails from Nyamandu, your grandfather Luro,
Zolugu’s son, the virtuous King
Nyamandu woman’s son
And King Luro camped at and invoked the river Namkabiem’s blessings.
He had waged a successful expedition
And wanted a praise-singer (bard).
King Luro wants a bard
King Luro wants a bard to go home.
“Namɔgu-yɔgu-zo-n-zhi-bieri,
Give me a bard to go home
I won’t go home empty-handed.”

Abdulai Salifu received his BA and M Phil degrees at the University of Ghana, Legon, in 1994 and 2004 respectively. He enrolled in IU Bloomington in August 2004, and left in December 2008 with PhD in Folklore, with minors in and Linguistics and African Studies. He now teaches at Tamale Polytechnic, Ghana, West Africa.

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