This is held annually in Kumasi as the culmination of the Ashante year, and draws a vast audience. The burial grounds of chiefs are swept clean along with family houses, and a sheep is sacrificed to the Golden Stool, the Ashante royal throne. Among other ceremonies, the paramount ruler is carried in procession through the streets of Kumasi. While the crowds are waiting for him to appear, the following commentary is broadcast on the talking drums.

Oh, Divine Drummer, (1)
I am scarcely awake and have risen up.
I, the Ashanti porcupine chief’s drummer,
I am scarcely awake,
I have made myself to rise up,
I am about to sound the drum.
If you have gone elsewhere and I call you,
Come;
The fowl has crowed in the morning,
The fowl has awakened and crowed,
Very early,
They are addressing me and I shall understand.

There are swamps, swamps, swamps,
Which can swallow up the elephant.
A river may lie small in the valley
Between great hills.
But it flows on for ever and ever.
If you have gone elsewhere and I call upon you (2)
Come.
The fowl has crowed in the morning,
The fowl has awakened and crowed,
Very early,
They are addressing me and I shall understand.

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 in the morning,
The fowl has awakened and crowed,
Very early,
They are addressing me and I shall understand.

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 in the morning,
The fowl has awakened and crowed,
Very early,
They are addressing me and I shall understand.

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,
The stream had its origin in the Creator.
He created things,
Pure, pure Tano (3)
Come here, Tano;
He devours rams,
Ta, the great one, the powerful one
Whom we serve upon a Monday.

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.

from Ashanti
Captain R.S. Rattray,
Oxford 1923, p100-103


Footnotes

  1. In c.1920, the drummer was Osai Kojo. Rattray, who recorded this, later persuaded Osai Bonsu, the Omanhene of Mampon to allow the same drummer to record The Drum History of Mampon, including a version of the same invocation.
  2. The spirit of the elephant
  3. Tano, the Ashante’s principal god.