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 artwork is included in my book Drawing on Culture: An Artist’s West Africa Travelogue, which is available to purchase here.
Dembadon I: the Sangbanfola
19x24” pencil on bristol by Dave Kobrenski
Here’s a little bit of the drawing process!
Click any image to view larger, and use your right/left arrow keys to scroll through ‘em.
Step 5: Finished!
In the end, you can see that I’ve pushed the drums into the background quite a bit, to a make sure they they don’t end up taking away from the figure in the foreground. Also, the ropes on the drums took forever to render! I wanted to make sure that the instruments were accurate though.
I’m happy with how the anatomy of the figure played out, and drawing all those muscles was a great learning experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece as much as I enjoyed drawing it. Cheers!
Drawing on Culture
An Artist’s West Africa Travelogue
In Drawing on Culture, artist and ethnomusicologist Dave Kobrenski takes readers on an artistic journey of cultural discovery into the heart of West Africa.
“Dave Kobrenski is a gifted artist and musician, and a better anthropologist than many of the PhDs I know. Here is a fine text that depicts people as they are, illustrates their essence, and demonstrates the importance of appreciating, without appropriating, their lives and ways of being.”
— Katherine Donahue, Ph.D, Professor Emerita, Anthropology