This festival is celebrated by the chiefs and people of Dagbon, Gonjas, Mamprusis, Nanumbas and the Walas. The main aim for the merriment is linked with Islam to mark the birth of Mohammed, the festival has gradually taken on a traditional rather than Islamic tone; the actual content of the celebration is a glorification of the chieftaincy, not specific Islamic motifs. . Damba is celebrated in the months of March, June and July, among the various ethnic groups mentioned, thus it varies from one community to the other. The main venue of the celebration is Bawku and its environs. The Damba festival is categorized into three main festivals, namely: Somo Damba, Naa Damba, Belkusi Damba. “Somo” Damba is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the prophet and Naa-Damba is held to mark his naming ceremony. The 2-day festival is full of pageantry and showmanship and is celebrated in the towns of Dagbon, Gonjaland, Mamprusiland and Nanumbaland.
Once the moon; the “goori” or “billai” is seen in the month that has been chosen for the celebration, marks the beginning of the ten day of the festival which all families happily receives with smiles and merry making.
The first day of the festival is the “peebudari” which is the day of cleaning. The night before the day, a gong gong beater is sent to all the community sections to announce to that they are supposed to come to the chief palace for the general clean up exercise. On this day all parts of the town is cleaned. The Chief priest house is thoroughly cleaned till it is spotless since it is the abode of all the Gods in Mamprugu.
The second night is the “Tizaadari” translates “everybody’s night”. It is the first official night of the festival. Youthful folk of Sakorana, Gambaarana, Nagboranaa and most especially Jangdanaa gathers each night at the paramount chief palace for rehearsing of praises, songs, drumming and dancing. It is also the night when all who are visitors are given the opportunity to register their names to partake in the dancing ceremony. They are taught the styles and techniques. This serves as a perfect timing for interested parties to learn and dance during the ceremony.
The third, fourth and fifth night are the “PaabaYunng” which is “the women’s night”. The women’s night is a night one would not want to miss. A night when all beautiful ladies of Mamprugu appears in their beautiful batakali dresses, wonder at the beauty of northern ladies. They gather to plan on how preparation of the visitor’s food will be done. This is followed by the rehearsals of songs and dances. The night is ended by the throwing of “Zaamba”(blackening of the foot of the ladies) led by the princesses of the various paramount chiefs of the land.
The sixth to eighth night are still meant for rehearsals prior to the grand durbar, but for both gender.
The ninth night is always scheduled as the night of historical account of the land of Mamprugu. This normally start in the afternoon usually 3.00pm after the Moslems of the land had prayed. A night meant for old historians of the land to gather to orally present in the hearing of all the historical underpinnings of the land. The names, ages, achievements of all the past chiefs are chronicled.
The grand durbar to the ceremony is refered to as “Gengani” which closes the activities of the ten days ceremony of Naa-Damba. Early in the morning the ceremonial bullock is slaughtered accompanying the pouring of libation, incantations and other rituals. This is followed by the rice picking ceremony where some quantity of rice is cleansed for the ceremony. In the evening, invited guest, all and sundry, princes, princesses, rich and the poor are seen in their richly and decently worn smocks known as “batakali”or ”fugu” to grace the occasion. The horses of the various chiefs are dressed in rich regalia and well decorated with gold ornaments differentiating the king’s from his followers. The Kambon-naaba beats the “Tinpani”, a type of drum, for the start of the “Gengani”. This is a ceremony where the King exhibits his powers by turning gunshot bullets into pebbles or water, varnishing and turning into different forms of creatures. It is also a day when the best Damba and “Takyi” dancer is chosen. This is actually the best part of the festival and it attracts large number of people. It is not unusual to see people on trees or roof tops in quest to catching glimpse of the paramount chief’s dance. It is also a day for the Bawku dancers. These are dancers who dance to the tune of the drummers as it is supposed to be done. Their dancing closes the evening “Gengani”and ushers in the “Waaniabeoo”
“Waaniabeoo” is a ceremony of the night, meaning dance till the next day. It starts around 12.00am. This is the time people consult their ancestors, gods and also performs rituals for guidance during the program. Around 11.30 pm the gong gong beater beats the “Timpaani” three times indicating that it is time for the ceremony. There is drumming, dancing and merry making. At about 5.00am the paramount chief is brought out on his horse for dancing display. The dancing continues till the last Timpaani is played and the chief prays and brings Damba to close.
After the ten days period, the nest two days ushers in the Naa-Damba, marking the naming ceremony. Dance performing groups from the surrounding villages pay homage to the paramount chief. It is also a period of home coming where all northern indigenes all over the world travel that were not able to come for the Naa-Damba come home to join in the celebration of the festival. In closing the ceremony, an amulet is tied to a tree indicating that all witches are rendered useless.
The second day is meant for the Muslim community to commemorate the birth of the prophet Muhammed. A big ram, free from any form of defect is slaughtered as a sign of his moving into the world. This is followed by a congregational Muslim prayer led by the Imam to thank God for a successful ceremony. This brings the closure of both Naa-Damba and Somo-Damba.
Come and hear more about Naa-Saa, Naa-Zuulum, Naa-Sheriga, Naa-Gamni and many more. . Come and witness styles of dancing which makes memories worth repeating. Come to the Damba festival.