Norbert Yao’s energetic performances are exciting and filled with cultural details about his homeland, Cote d’Ivoire or the “Ivory Coast” of western sub-Saharan Africa. He learned to play the “talking drums”—djembe and dundun—from family and community members in Africa, and began performing at the age of eighteen. He founded the performing group Anouaze Beat after moving to Carson City in 2000.
“Anouaze” means “unity and togetherness” in the Baoule language, and these are principles the group brings to life in their performances. Norbert and Anouaze Beat combine the power of drumming with dance, singing, masks, carvings, and textiles in their educational presentations.
Centuries ago, African nations created talking drums as a means of communication. Traditional forms of African drumming are essential elements of dances and rituals. The drums can also be played to communicate intimidation, or to sound a warning.
Drumming styles are directly related to the drum's construction and the tonal qualities of spoken dialects. The bodies of the drums are crafted from African woods and the tops are made from animal skins. Some have elaborate designs. Sounds are produced by striking the center, sides, and edges of the drums with different parts of the hand. Each drum sound is associated with a specific ancestral, historical, or contemporary meaning. Blended together, these sounds clearly communicate words and ideas.
Norbert’s goal is to create a memorable experience from which audiences of all ages can learn first-hand about a variety of performing and visual art traditions from Ghana, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, and other African countries. Audience members are invited to participate by joining in the singing, dancing, and drumming on traditional instruments.