The Dagomba people perform the Takai Dance. The Dagombas occupy an area of undulating grassland spotted with Shea-butter trees and a few hills. Their source of water is the White Volta, a tributary of the great Volta River, the largest river in Ghana. The main occupation of the traditional Dagomba, like most of the other people in the area is cattle, sheep, guinea fowl and goat rearing. They are also in the business of growing millet, rice and the production of she-butter. The impact of Islam and to a lesser degree, Christianity and the advent of independence brought about many changes into the social structure of the Dagomba. Today quite a sizeable number of Moslems and a few Christian exist among the Dagomba. However, the main religion, Wende, or Wuni allows individual Dagombas to keep their own private lesser gods, Noli , Wuni. Noli Wuni is subservient to a superior god, Bogli. Bogli therefore, represents a pantheon of all the lesser gods.
One of the most respected and visible cultural practices among the Dagomba, is the annual festival. The Damba festival is held in commemoration of the birth of the holy prophet, Mohammed, and the Nnumba, Mamprusi, Gonja and Wala ethnic and other ethnic groups in Northern Ghana, perform the naming of the holy prophet Mohammed. A widely travelled Naa Zangina who became Ya-Na around 1700AD introduced the Damba festival to the people of Northern Ghana. Arguably, the most prominent dance performed during the festival celebrated in August is the Takai. Takai performance comes at the climax of the festival. The dance is a blend of Islamic religious influences, reflected both the in the costume worn by the dancers and in the actual movements of the dance; and elements of the indigenous culture of the people.
Today, the original commemorative function of the Takai has expanded to cover funerals, weddings and other special occasions. The King, who usually serves the principal dancer, holds a white horse-tail in one hand and walking stick in the other to perform the main Damba movements. An entourage of men and women and follow him. Some of the women fan the King as he performs short, calculated simple steps on the first beat of the phrase in the music provided by an orchestra of donno and brekete drums. He usually finishes the step at the end of the phrase, with half turns to the right; and then to left. He may enhance the basic movements with the articulation of the large Bumaa (smock) he is wearing.
This billows out and twirls gracefully as he performs pivot and spin turns, punctuated with torso swings and feet stamps. He dances with his head bobbing with an air of contentment.
The men, dressed in the same fashion and each holding a short metal rod in the right hand, perform the group version of the Takai Dance. Each dancer at regular intervals, strikes his metal rod alternatively against that of the person in front of him, and then turns around to strike the person behind him. The entire performance usually takes place in a circular formation with drummers in the centre in spirited but controlled and dignified manner. Today some of these dancers may be men of ordinary background, but by virtue of their knowledge and ability, may perform the Takai.
The Takai consists of several distinct, but interrelated variations including the following: Damba
- Damba: indicates the number of steps the dancers should take before a turn while striking the metal rods against that of their partners.
- Takai: the dancer is required to activate the large pantaloon he is wearing by making a series of turns.
- Normali Ya: in this variation the dancer is required to strike the empty space on the right before turning to strike the metal of the other dancer; come back and touch the ground and then goes back to strike.