Dancing with Props
Learning How to Play Finger Cymbals
Finger cymbals, also called sagat (or zagat) in Arabic or zills in Turkish, are small circles made of copper-nickel alloy and come in sets of four, two in each hand. The most common rhythms used with sagat or zills during belly dance performances, are Baladi, Karachi (or Karatchi) and Fallahi.
This rhythm, when played with drums, is usually made up by two sequences of dums and taks. The first sequence is composed by two dum and three taks (dum-dum tk-tk-tk), followed by one dum and three taks (dum tk-tk-tk).
As in zills there are no dum and no tak sounds, let us assume that we are going to play the dums with the right hand and the taks with the left. Therefore, the sound played with the sagat will be:
r r rlr r rlr (where r stands for right, l for left and space means a small pause)
This rhythm imitates the sound of horses galloping, therefore it is also called gallop and it sounds like
this: rlr rlr rlr rlr
This is the rhythm created by the farmers of Egypt and it is a repetitive sound that, with the finger cymbals, goes like this: rlrlrlrlrlr
The zills can be played in a way that makes them sound dull or resonant. For a more resonant sound, you need to slide the sagat against each other slightly, while striking them together. A dull sound is usually better for a folkloric dance, while a resonant sound is more adapt to a cabaret bellydance style.
Tips for using the sagat or zills
When to use them – they are often used at the beginning of a belly dance coreography, as the dancer enters the stage. Whenever you decide to use the zills during your belly dance performance, however, never abuse their use. Sagat should not be used for a long time, otherwise they loose their appeal.
Which type of sagat is best to use – There are various types of finger cymbals, varying in size, colour and material. The size and the material are chosen according to the type of music and dance style, while the colour (silver or gold) depends on your bellydance costume. However, one tip is to prefer the zills that have two slits at the top (where you insert the elastic band) rather than the zills with only one hole at the top. The reason is that the cymbals with two slots are easier to control, once you have inserted the elastic band.
What type of elastic band is better to use – the flat and wide type is better than the elastic with a round cross section, as the flat rubber band makes the zills more stable and easier to control while playing them.
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