Posts by Author: Dave Kobrenski
Comment une flûte de 40 000 ans remet les choses à plat
Jan 9 2019
Il y a entre 40 000 et 45 000 ans environ, un groupe d’hommes primitifs migrant depuis l’Afrique, emportait avec eux un objet petit mais important : une flûte. Que cette découverte nous dit de notre passé collectif ?
Learn French with Music
French Aug 5 2018
This summer, I visited Montreal, Canada for the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique. The trip was a great opportunity to practice my French, as well as take in some great music! One of the groups that really made an impression on me was the French-Algerian artist known as “HK” (his name is Kaddour Hadadi). The music was a great blend of reggae, blues, folk and more, with a great message — all in French of course! The festival was a great challenge for my comprehension and speaking skills. I purchased his CD on my way out of the featival, which thankfully came with an insert with all of the lyrics printed in it. So I set about learning all the words and phrases that were unknown to me…here is one of my favorite tunes from the CD, with English translation and notes. I hope this helps someone with their French learning, and introduces folks in the English-speaking world to this great artist! Learn more more about HK and purchase the CD here.
La sérendipité à la montagne
C’est un dimanche matin à la fin de septembre. Toujours au lit, mes paupières sont encore lourdes. Bien que j’aie l’habitude de me lever tôt, j’étais très occupé toute la semaine durant, et du coup, je suis épuisé. J’ai très envie de faire la grasse matinée. Néanmoins, je me rends vite compte que la journée va avoir d’autres idées pour moi.
Il fait noir dehors. À l’extérieur de ma maison, je suis assis sous les dernières étoiles du petit matin. La lune s’est déjà couchée, mais le soleil ne s’est pas encore levé. Au-dessus de moi, la Voie lactée se donne en spectacle dans le ciel sombre. J’entends chanter les grillons et les cigales ; leurs chansons marquent le sommet de l’été. C’est presque l’aube, et je viens de sortir du lit. Autour du lac résonnent les mélodies mystiques des huards. Bien que la matinée soit à peine commencée, un flot de pensées défilent déjà dans ma tête : je les chasse, pour le moment. Je veux bien me souvenir du rêve qui m’a traversé l’esprit juste avant de me lever. Sur l’écran intérieur de mon esprit, je rejoue le film du songe, avec ses images à la fois étranges et familières. J’ai beau essayer de saisir sa signification, elle m’échappe, bien que ce soit un beau rêve qui avait lieu dans un paysage doux et éclatant, un endroit méconnu qui me laisse un sentiment nostalgique. Peu à peu, les images du rêve se mettent à s’effacer. Seuls resteront les sentiments. Tout à coup, je prends conscience à nouveau des sonorités des grillons. Pour aucune raison en particulier, j’ai envie de jeter un coup d’œil à mon téléphone. Je m’arrête. Il est 4 h 30 du matin, qu’est-ce que j’y trouverais qui est important à cette heure-là de toute façon ? Rien du tout. C’était un coup de tête, une impulsion seulement, l’une de plusieurs qui m’arriveront au fil de la journée. Je suis humain, après tout… Je me décide à méditer, même si c’est juste pour 10 minutes. Comme d’habitude, c’est un défi au début. Mais enfin, au fur et à mesure que le soleil se met à se lever, la mer des pensées agitées dans mon esprit se calme. Pour un moment bref, elle devient un lac placide. Mais pas pour longtemps. Quelques minutes plus tard, me voilà à la cuisine. Mes chats miaulent pour que je les nourrisse. J’attends avec grande impatience que le café soit prêt. En attendant, je remarque que l’un des chats grossit ; je me demande s’il est en surpoids. De toute façon, ils sont trop mignons. Je me rappelle que j’ai oublié d’envoyer un courriel important hier. Je le note, et la pensée disparaît aussi vite qu’elle est venue. Je me mets à réfléchir au dessin que j’ai entrepris la veille. Est-il bon ? Les pensées tournent en boucle. Je soupire. Voilà mon propre « courant de conscience ». Il me faudrait peut-être refaire de la méditation ! Dehors, le ciel se colore de nuances de rouges et d’oranges. Je jette un coup d’œil par la fenêtre au lac derrière la maison ; le vent n’a pas encore commencé à souffler et la surface du lac est ainsi calme et lisse. Je devrais faire du paddle ce matin, je me dis, le café en main enfin. Il est encore tôt ; puisque j’ai du temps, je pourrais aller sur l’une des petites îles, et je pourrais apporter le nouveau livre que je meurs d’envie de lire… oui, cela serait splendide. En revanche, je sais bien que j’aurai un emploi du temps bien chargé aujourd’hui, avec plein de travail à faire. Mais comme souvent, je négocierai avec moi-même : allez, c’est l’été, il fait doux, la vie est courte, et d’ailleurs, tu as besoin d’exercice — particulièrement après avoir bu ces deux bières hier soir avec tes amis ! Les deux voix se battent dans ma tête. La dispute sera courte. Il me faudra bosser dur plus tard… car le lac m’appelle maintenant. Une heure plus tard, je me retrouve au milieu du lac sur ma planche à bras. Au-dessus, le ciel du matin est bleu et dégagé. Les rayons du soleil me réchauffent agréablement. Au moment où je parviens sur l’île, j’éprouve profondément de la gratitude. J’ai de la chance d’être là, et je le sais. Quelques moments après, je plonge sous la surface de l’eau, les yeux fermés. Je me rappelle qu’il est important de conserver l’équilibre entre le travail et la santé, les responsabilités et les joies. Personne ne se dit jamais, sur son lit de mort, qu’il aurait mieux fait de passer plus de temps au travail !
Article for French Learning
In recent years, positive psychology research has produced a better understanding of what truly makes us happy as human beings. Amongst other things, a daily practice of gratitude has been shown to be instrumental in bringing about happiness in our daily lives. Article in French and English for language practice.
article for French learning
The below video and transcript comes from a French translation of the book Think on these things, by J. Krishnamurti, originally published in English. As well as being a profound and relevant discourse on the true function of education, I’m finding it to be a very helpful resource in my studies of French. Here, I’ve provided the French translation alongside the original English. Some grammar notes coming soon! Original source with more chapters here.
Learning French with Music
French Aug 4 2017
Over the course of my French learning adventure, I’ve found that I progress much faster in assimilating new vocabulary and grammar when I immerse myself in, and surround myself by, content that interests me. That includes reading stuff in French that I’m passionate about anyway, watching interesting Ted Talks and other videos — and of course, listening to music. One of my favorite groups to listen to these days is Colocks — a talented reggae / roots / dub group from France. Not only do I dig the music and message, but I’m gleaning a whole lot of handy vocab in the process :) Below is their song Toujours Plus, with lyrics in French, an English translation, and some vocab notes for some of the words and phrases that were initially unfamiliar to me. Support this great group by buying their music and merch, and enjoy!
Video with English translation
Video: For the Malinké people of Guinea, Kassa is the name of a family of rhythms and dances that accompany the work related to farming and harvest. The rhythms are played on the traditional djembe and dunun drums. Watch this video (with English translation) here.
Artwork Aug 26 2016
This drawing is part two of the Dembadon series. The Dembadon is a pre-marriage festival for the bride-to-be that is quite common in Conakry, Guinea, accompanied by much drumming, singing, and dance. The djembe is the drum played with bare hands that typically plays the “solos” that interact with and speak to the dancers. A djembefola is “one who makes the djembe speak.” Behind the djembe player in this drawing is also the dununba player. The djembes are always accompanied by three “dunun” drums (the bass drums played with a stick and that have a bell mounted on top). The dununba is the largest and deepest of the three dunun drums. This post is a part of my “Drawing on Culture: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon! Learn more about how you can support my ongoing work here, with pledges as little as $1. Every amount helps greatly! Dembadon II: the Djembefola 19x24” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski
Rediscovering my Muse in Africa
Artwork Aug 12 2016
In 2001 I first ventured onto the African continent as a wide-eyed white kid from New Hampshire who had, by a series of strange twists of fate, become very much involved in the music and culture of sub-Saharan Africa. Little did I know that this would only be the beginning of a larger adventure…
Artwork Aug 10 2016
This drawing is part one of the Dembadon series. The Dembadon is a pre-marriage festival for the bride-to-be, and is quite common in Conakry, Guinea. The festival features much drumming, singing, and dance. At the Dembadon, the bride-to-be is honored, and it is a time for her to celebrate with friends and family, and, in some cases, say goodbye to them as she goes to start her new life with her new family. In this drawing (part one of a three-part series), I’ve depicted the sangban player at a Dembadon festival. “Sangban” is the name of middle of three drums in the set of dununs (bass drums), and sangbanfola means “one who makes the sangban speak” — and is a generally compliment to the abilities and competence of the player! In the capital city of Conakry, Dembadon festivals are an important part of how musicians earn an income playing traditional music. The musicians are fed before the event in a communal meal, and during the festivities, money is thrown to (or placed on!) the drummers and dancers, and is collected at the end of the festival to be split up equally by the musicians. Usually lasting several hours, the festivities are led by the exuberant singing of the griottes, accompanied by the full ensemble of drummers (djembe, dununba, sangban, and kenkeni drums). The music played during the Dembadon is usually in the family of Soli rhythms, but nowadays it is quite common to also hear rhythms in the dununba family — the dance of the strong men — and danced by everyone! This post is a part of my “Drawing on Culture: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon! Learn more about how you can support my ongoing work here, with pledges as little as $1. Every amount helps greatly! Dembadon I: the Sangbanfola 19x24” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski
New Artwork & Drawing Tutorial
Artwork Jul 24 2016
In the Malinké tradition of West Africa, the Dununba is the “dance of the strong men”. In a grueling and exuberant festival that can often last throughout the day, the Dununba dancers display their physical prowess while accompanied by the traditional djembe and dunun drums. Here is the latest drawing from my series depicting Mandinka culture in West Africa: a dununba dancer hailing from the Kouroussa region of Guinea gets airborne! This post is a part of my “Visual Anthropology: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon! Learn more about how you can support my ongoing work here, with pledges as little as $1. Every amount helps greatly! Dununba Dancer in Flight 19x24” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski
Why Art Patronage is Important Again
Articles Jul 12 2016
As an artist, I strive to make exceptional work that continuously pushes the boundaries of what I could do previously. With each artwork, I aim to raise the bar higher, and build upon both the successes and failures of the last. As my skills improve, the barriers to bringing into physical reality that which I see in my mind begin to disappear. As those barriers disappear I can take my art to whole new levels. That is what excites me. Excellence and Sustainability I have begun to see that it is only through a full-time, intensive practice of my art that I will be able to understand my true purpose and potential as an artist, and ultimately to honor the gifts of artistic talent I have been given — and share the result with the world. The goal of a full-time practice, then, is a pursuit of artistic excellence. I want to produce art that inspires and informs, stimulates the mind, and tells a story. I want to show you, the viewer, something about our world that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to see or know about. I have artistic vision and I believe it can add something of cultural value to our world. I am dedicated to this.
Drawing by Dave Kobrenski
Artwork Jul 11 2016
“L’amitié est l’un des beaux cadeaux de la vie” — Friendship is one of the greatest gifts in life. Friendship is a universal thing. There’s something about visiting another culture, where the language and customs seem so different from your own, and seeing two friends walking together, hands interlocked and beaming with joy, to make you realize that we are all the same. I came across these young friends walking down one of the dusty paths in the village. Even though we did not speak the same language and had grown up an ocean apart, in some way I felt connected to them because I understood how friendship feels; it’s a feeling we can all experience and share. A real friend can make all your troubles seem small and the world feel brighter. “To be without a friend is to be poor indeed.” The people in this simple village have a great wealth of friendship and family. All the money and material possessions we have in the West pale in comparison. This post is a part of my “Visual Anthropology: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon. Learn more about how you can support my ongoing work here! L’amitié (Friendship) 14x17” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski
Pencil & graphite powder on bristol
Artwork May 11 2016
As part of an ongoing series of portrait drawings that I began during my 2016 trip to Guinea, West Africa, I present to you the latest drawing in the series, titled: Ibrahim et son petit-fils, featuring a friend of mine from a village near Kouroussa. Ibrahim is a friend of mine from a small village in the Kouroussa region of Guinea. Something about him fascinated me. He had an aura of knowing something, or perhaps seeking to know something that was just beyond knowable. His eyes always held a faraway look, but also had a glimmer and a light. He’s lived quite the life, and told me many stories. He left the village when he was younger in search of work, and spent 15 years as a merchant marine, and saw the world…before returning home to the village to be with his family. He was worldly and kind; children always flocked to him. This post is a part of my “Visual Anthropology: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon. Ibrahim et son petit-fils 14x17” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski from my series depicting the people and culture of Guinea, West Africa
Drawing Process and Tutorial
Artwork May 2 2016
For the Malinké, dancing plays a very important role. Music exists for dancing; in fact the word for song, donkilo, is made up of the root words don (dance) and kilo (to call), so could be loosely translated to “come dance.” The music calls both young and old to participate in a joyful and healthy act of expression and joy. Here, a griotte woman shows her joy for the music at one of the many festivals that take place throughout the year. The drawing below is 14x17” pencil and graphite powder on bristol board, and was a great opportunity to do a portrait study and attempt to capture the personality and joy of a woman dancing in a village in Guinea, West Africa. Below, I outline some thoughts and challenges I encountered along the way. I hope you enjoy and find this useful! This post is a part of my “Visual Anthropology: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon. La Griotte II 14x17” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski from my series depicting the people and culture of Guinea, West Africa
Drawing Process and Tutorial
Artwork May 1 2016
In the villages in Guinea, much of daily life revolves around tasks related to subsistence farming. Rice, manioc, sweet potatoes, yams, and many other dietary staples are grown in the village. The work is hard, and it is not uncommon to see both young and old at work in the fields. Here, a man sorts through beans that will be sifted and then pounded with the mortar and pestle, and made into that evening’s stew… Le Vieux Fermier is 14x17” pencil and graphite powder on bristol board, and depicts a farmer in a village in the Kouroussa region of Guinea, not far from the Niger River. This drawing had many challenges, as you will see below. Enjoy! — DK This post is a part of my “Visual Anthropology: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon. Le Vieux Fermier 14x17” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski from my series depicting the people and culture of Guinea, West Africa
Drawing Process and Tutorial
Artwork Apr 26 2016
At festivals in the village, which were almost always accompanied by much drumming and dancing, the women of the village were always singing and playing their karignon — a hollow tube of metal tied to their finger and stuck rhythmically with a striker. Dozens of these bells played together by many women, with their joyous singing and the exuberant sounds of the traditional djembe and dunun drums, forms quite a powerful musical ensemble. This post is a part of my “Visual Anthropology: West Africa” series, made possible by support from my awesome patrons on Patreon. Belle Femme Du Village 14x17” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski from my series depicting the people and culture of Guinea, West Africa
by Robert Henri
Inspiration Apr 15 2016
“Robert Henri (1865–1929) was an American artist, teacher, and an outspoken advocate of modernism in painting. The Art Spirit represents the best of the collected words, teachings, and letters of Henri…a must read for all aspiring artists and lovers of art…”
How a 40,000 year old flute leveled the playing field
Sometime between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago, a group of early humans on a migration route out of Africa, along the corridor of the Danube River valley, carried with them a small but significant object: a flute. Carved from the bone of a griffon vulture, with…