Cymbals in Dance
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Finger cymbals, zills, zils, sagat, castanets, manjira, kasik, karkaba... all are percussion instruments played by hand while dancing, or not, in cultures around the world.
On the cover:
Zills, also zils, or finger cymbals, (from Turkish zil, "cymbals") are tiny metallic cymbals used in belly dancing and similar performances. They are called sājāt (صاجات) in Arabic. They are similar to Tibetan tingsha bells. A set of zills consists of four cymbals, two for each hand. Modern zills come in a range of sizes, the most common having a diameter of about 5 cm (2 in). Different sizes and shapes of zills will produce sounds that differ in volume, tone and resonance. For instance, a dancer performing with an orchestra will use a larger zill with more volume, whereas a cabaret dancer will use a zill with a more delicate sound. American Tribal dancers typically use a much larger zill with a more mellow tone. (Link) ©2016 Danielle Elizabeth
Finger cymbals have always been an integral part of dance.
In Egypt, musicians play the finger cymbals. The percussionist often plays them to add excitement to the music, jumping around with his saucer-shaped finger cymbals while the band plays and/or the dancer performs.
The playing of finger cymbals is even mentioned in the Bible:
"and David and all the house of Israel rejoiced before Yahveh with all kinds of cypress wood (instruments) and with lyres and with harps and with frame-drums and with shakers and with cymbals." (Samuel 6:5)
The playing of cymbals has a history that spans the world and many cultures. Various versions of this hand-played percussive instrument have been incorporated into music and dance.
In Psalm 150:5, cymbal clappers are mentioned. Consisting of tow small cymbal plates attached to a pronged u-shaped handle, this cymbal was shaken so that the plates would strike each other rapidly in a rhythm called teruah.
Berber tribes (Amazigh) used cymbal clappers in their dances. Known as Karkaba/ Qarkabeb, they were made of wood, ivory, bone or metal. These cymbals were attached by a handle.
These forked cymbals used in Egypt, Greece and Rome were also knows as crotala. They were played to the sound of a frame-drum and used during religious rites and secular dances.
Medieval (and even modern) Turkish and Greek musicians danced with a pair of wood spoons, kasik, in their hands. Turkish Ottoman military bands played metal finger cymbals, similar to what dancers play today.In Egypt, the Ghawazee (street performers) played sagat, metal finger cymbals. In India, Manjira, a pair of brass cymbals attached by a cord, are played while dancing. Similar cymbals are also played by Tibetians in Nepal. The castanets used by Flamenco dancers are a form of finger cymbal. Made of wood, they are played in complex rhythm while dancing. Hula dancers in the South Pacific, use a form of castanet called 'lli 'ili. They are small porous stones run smooth by flowing water. Holding a pair in each hand they click them together in rhythm to the music.
Modern orchestras also feature finger cymbals in their percussion sections as an accent instrument. Zildjian are the popular brand.
Cymbals... a unique instruments that transcends time and place...
See also: "To Prop or Not..."
Nancy Loyan schuemann, Contributor: Nancy Loyan Schuemann (aka: Nailah) is a multi published writer and author by day and a Middle Eastern belly dance instructor and performer by night. For nearly ten years she was the Cleveland, Ohio and national belly dance examiner at the recently closed www.Examiner.com. Through the years, she has written for other dance publications, including Bellydance Chronicles. With a BSBA in Marketing, she has had careers in retail management, marketing, public relations and outside sales. All roads... (more...)