Dagbamba expressive arts

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This page is devoted to interpreting Dagbamba performance arts, including music, dance, and songs.

short URL: http://bit.ly/dagbamba

Except as noted, all videos feature members of the Youth Home Cultural Group in Tamale, Ghana. They were filmed in January 2014 by Michael Frishkopf (video) and David Ewenson (audio) and subsequently edited by David Ewenson.

We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of a Department of Music President's Fund grant that enabled preparation of this video collection, and the kind cooperation of the Youth Home Cultural Group of Tamale, Ghana who perform and explain the dances, drumming, and songs in the videos below. We are also grateful to the late Chief of Duuyin Naa, Mr. Von Salifu, who provided historical and cultural background on the Dagbamba people as well as each dance.

NB: This page is still under development!

General background and history

Background and History of the Dagbamba people, their music and dance, including Damba, Bamaya, and Jera, as presented by the late Chief of Duuyin Naa, Mr. Von Salifu

General instruction



  • Bamaya and Tora Songs (2014; audio only, voices and flute - no drums). Flute can improvise while the lead singer is singing. Often the flute brings in the call and the group responds. Note that flute and singing melody will follow the tones of the language (Dagbani). Also the songs may have a specific place within the sequence of drumming rhythms.
    • Bamaya (songs are all sung to the introductory rhythms)
      • Dinvele Nyasa (Bamaya): "Living well is good, but financing it is a problem. It is not easy to come by a good life in society: you must work for it". Dinvela nyasa dahama kani oh, aduniya nima dinvela nyasa dahama kine oh (you need something sweet in life but you don't have money)
      • Paɣaba (Bamaya): "Welcoming and praising beauty of ladies who lead the Bamaya dance." One lady, called Paɣaba, didn't like having to fetch water. One day she went to the dam site to fetch water, and they sang for her when she was coming back home: "Paɣaba Kuchan Kulika Paɣaba Paɣaba Paɣaba Maraba" (She doesn't want to go, welcome Paɣaba!) Note: the flute alone plays the call "Paɣaba Kuchan Kulika"
      • Paɣ ŋulana da danka zrikala ni (Bamaya): "Discourages ladies from being wicked in society." Each wife has a day or week to cook. The wife who doesn't cook for the family is called Ŋulana. The story is that when it's her turn to cook, don't go for the soup because you won't eat well - she won't cook enough soup to match the TZ (grain).
      • Lalalala ashea lalala ka duniya bea (Bamaya): "People will pretend to love you when they don't love you." Many songs are proverbs used to insult each other, or to complain if someone doesn't act generously. But today's world based on religion and faith rejects such songs.
    • Tora (each song goes with a particular rhythmic section)
      • Da dam yoo da dam yoo da dam bemi o yea niŋ sham kabibolo nira beti yea bolomira dab yi kobe la ogbalini (Tora): "how can human being act to have a good impact on society so that people will talk good about you in your lifetime, rather than after you are dead and gone?"
      • Wa lea la wa Leala oye yea wa lea la wa lea la yea (Tora): motivational song, for person named Laila (Leala)
      • Mana wuruku kovi ka to (Tora): proverb, talks about trying to do the right thing before you can make progress: okra soup - you remove okra from farm, dry it, and pound it before you can eat. Note: flute plays "Mana wuruku" and group responds with the rest.
    • More songs (2015; video with drumming, need subtitles)
  • Tora Stories:
    • Chief's wife couldn't become pregnant; chief's friend (nazo) brought her to shrine and she got pregnant. Her friends teased her that the nazo was the father. He ran away over the wall. (Many Tora songs are teases.)

Five dances: Bamaya, Damba, Tora, Takai, Jera






Other resources

Please refer to the following excellent resources as well: