Dagomba: Dances

Bamaaya Dance:


Jera was originally a religious music and dance of the Kparibas in Dagbon, performed before and after hunting expeditions. It is now performed by most Dagbamba villages in Northern Ghana on diverse social occasions: festivals, funerals, and for recreation after a hard day’s work. The religious costume is however retained.


Wedding music and dance of the Dagbamba women of Northern Ghana. This music is performed exclusively by women in honor of a new bride. Songs used in this celebration relate to topical, human, marriage, and other social issues.


Takai is a royal dance of the Dagbamba chiefs and princes. It is performed on festive occasions such as the annual Damba festival, political rallies, and durbar of chiefs. Danced only by men, Takai movements involve pivot turns, torso swings, and stamping to the rhythm of the Luna and gungon, the only drums that are used in this dance.

Dagomba: Musical Instruments


Brekete_4_Brekete.  Played across the Savannah by the Dagomba, Hausa, Yoruba,  peoples of West Africa. Played as a support and lead drum. The head is from goat skin, and uses a snare made from thinly strung leather hide.

Talking Drum:

dondotalking2_1Drums are some of the oldest instruments used by west African griots and their history can be traced back to the Ghana Empire. The Hausa people (and by influence, the Yoruba people of south western Nigeria and Benin and the Dagomba of northern Ghana) have developed a highly sophisticated genre of griot music centering on the talking drum. Many variants of the talking drum exist, with essentially the same construction mentioned above. Interestingly, this construction is limited to within the contemporary borders of West Africa, with exceptions to this rule being northern Cameroon and western Chad; areas which have shared populations belonging to groups predominant in their bordering West African countries, such as the Kanuri, Djerma, Fulani and Hausa.    

Siyalim / Straw Rattle:

Made form local straw calabash woven inside to produce a hard crack for the stones sown inside.


Dagomba: Culture

Culturally, Dagbon is heavily influenced by Islam. Inheritance is patrilineal. Important festivals include the Damba, Bugum (fire festival) and the two Islamic Eid Festivals. The most cosmopolitan city of Dagbon is Tamale, which also serves as the Northern Regional capital.

Dagomba: Background

The Dagomba are an ethnic group of Northern Ghana. They live in the savanna region, speaking Dagbani which belongs to the More-Dagbani sub-group of Gur languages. Dagbani sub-group today has broken up into three ethnic groups: The Dagbamba, the Mamprusi and the Nanumba. Even though these groups today constitute three apparently distinct ethnic groups, their people still identify with each other and the bond is strongest among the Dagbamba and Nanumba. The homeland of the Dagbamba is called Dagbon and covers about 20,000 km2 in area and has a total population of about 8,655,700, that’s without the related tribes. which are Mumprusi, Nanumbers, Gonja, Moshi, Gurusi, Frafra, Kusasi, Wala, and konkomba…. The area constitutes seven administrative districts in present day Ghana. These are the Tamale Municipality, Tolon/Kumbungu, Savelugu/Nantong, Yendi, Gushegu/Karaga, Zabzugu/Tatali and Saboba/Cheriponi. The overlord the Dagbon Traditional Kingdom is the Ya- Na, whose court and administrative capital is at Yendi. Yendi is reputed to be the largest village in West Africa. The Dagbon Kingdom has traditional administrative responsibilities for hitherto acephalous groups like the Konkomba, the Bimoba, the Chekosi, the Basaari, the Chamba, Moshi, Wala, Gurusi, Frafra… and the Zantasi. Though ethnic Dagbamba are in the majority, the people of the subject ethnic groups have equal citizenship rights in the Kingdom. The seat of the Ya Na literally translated as King of Absolute Power, is a collection of cow skins. Thus when we talk of the political history of Dagbon, we often refer to it as the Yendi Skin. (Not throne or crown).

Na Gbewwaa is regarded as the founder of Greater Dagbon (Present day Dagbon, Mamprugu and Nanung). Lacking in a writing culture, Dagbamba are one of the ethnic groups with a very sophisticated oral tradition woven around drums and other musical instruments. Thus most of its history, until quite recently, has been based on oral tradition with drummers as professional historians. So according to oral tradition, the political history of Dagbon has its genesis in the lifestory of a legend called Tohazie (translated as Red Hunter).