Friday, May 18, 2012

Drums Verses From R.S. Rattray's book "Ashanti" - Part II

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part post which presents the English translation of several Ashanti talking drum verses found in R.S. Rattray's 1923 book Ashanti.

For Part I of this post, click Akan Talking Drums Verses From R.S. Rattray's book "Ashanti" - Part I.

The content of this post is presented for historical, educational, folkloric, and aesthetic purposes. The copyrights remain with their owners. My hope is that reposting the book excerpt helps to raise positive awareness about Ghanaian culture & prompts viewers to learn more about that culture.

My thanks to the composers of these drum verses, and thanks to R.S. Rattray for documenting these verses.

EXCERPT FROM ASHANTI by R.S. Rattray* [Continued from Part I of this series; The author's words are given here in italics to better distinguish them from the drum verses]

THE DRUMS [continued]

"He then called upon the spirit of the tree from which the fibre is made that holds down the tympanum of elephant hide.

I lay down, but I did not feel sleepy,
I lay down but my eyes did not close,
For three watches of the night.
I think about my friends who have left me and are asleep,
Amoafo-Awuku-the cock-the old bird whose bones have grown strong.
Fowl, good morning, good morning.
The fowl has crowed &c., &c.[etc., etc.]

The sky is wide, wide, wide,
The earth is wide, wide, wide,
The one was lifted up,
The other was set down,
In ancient times, long, long ago.

Supreme Sky God, upon whom men lean and fall not,
We serve you.
When the Sky God shows you anything
May you profit by it.
If we wish 'white' we get it,
If we wish 'red' we get it.
Him upon whom we lean and do not fall,
God, good morning.
You whom we serve upon a Saturday,
Good morning.
The fowl has crowed &c., &c.[etc., etc.]

He then discoursed about the herald 'with the black monkey-skin cap' who 'carries his own stool'. He continued in praise of the great god Tano, to be described later.

The stream crosses the path,
The path crosses the stream;
Which of them is the elder?
Did we not cut a path to go and meet this stream?
The stream had its origin long, long ago,
Th stream had its origin in the Creator.
He created things,
Pure, pure Tano [the great god of the Ashanti].*
Come here, Tano;
He devours rams,
Ta, the great one, the powerful one
Whom we serve upon a Monday.

And again.

He is coming, he is coming,
Little by little, slowly, slowly.
Be careful not to stumble,
Little by little, slowly, slowly.
You will come and sit down,
Chief, you will come and sit down.
Kon! Kon! Kon!**
The great man, Osai's son, has sat down.
The King has sat down
He who destroys towns has sat down,
He who never forgives,
He has taken a stool and sat down.

And so on, ending with:

The King is going to rise.
The destroyer of towns is about to rise.
Little by little!
Carefully! Carefully!
Take care you do not stumble (1)
King let us forward.

(1)In olden times it was considered extremely unlucky for the King if Ashanti to stumble, should he do so, a slave was immediately killed on that spot. On great occasion an attendant lifted and set down his feet for the King, lest he should stumble and fall down."
[end of quote]

*This is a direct quote from that book.
** This was given in italics in that book to denote non-English words.

Source - R. S. Rattray: London, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1959, Chapter V, "A Wednesday Adae Ceremony", pps 101-103; originally published in 1923

Click for information about Robert Sutherland Rattray (1881– 1938).

**** West African Talking Drums

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