Annoying the Entire Household: Learning Finger Cymbals

PicsArt_05-01-08.39.27Although I have been dancing for several years, I’ve never really picked up many props. Well, I’ve purchased a few, but I never really managed to acquire the skill. I purchased a veil and a set of finger cymbals (sagat, zills) at the same time, and never really managed to learn either one of them. My first real prop was the assaya, which I debuted last month. Now my newest project is figuring out the sagat.

My first set of sagat came in the form of the Moorish brass set from Saroyan. They were reasonably priced and the description said they were good for beginners. Lies! Lies, I tell you!

Okay, maybe not lies, just not really good for me. I always found the little things hard to handle, and because of that, I never really got around to mastering them. It wasn’t until the last couple of months, that I began to consider that maybe they were just too small for me. In the first zill DVD I purchased featuring Elsa Leandros, Elsa uses these great big zills. I also noticed Karim Nagi prefers larger cymbals as well. His mastery of that instrument is fascinating and super entertaining to watch, both live and recorded.

I asked around in the online community about whether larger would be easier to learn, and the general consensus was start small, but that still didn’t feel right to me. Small wasn’t working. Fortunately, while on a lunch break at the recent Nada el Masriya workshops last month, I mentioned the issue and another dancer pulled out one of her many sets and let me feel them out.

They felt good in my hands. A nice size, a nice weight. Not large, per se, but about a .25 inches (.64 cm) larger than my Moorish set. A week or two ago, I ended up ordering those same sagat, the Turkish Delight Professional brass set from Saroyan. I also learned the nifty trick of using tiny safety pins to secure the elastics instead of employing my sub par sewing skills and screwing it up. They are much easier to adjust, even if it’s not the way you’re supposed to do it.

I have always had trouble with the numbering system for learning sagat as well. It’s the most common method. At least three of my DVDs that involve cymbal patterns use it. However, I don’t count when I dance, so numbers just kind of break my brain. I much prefer using the dum-tak-tik-tok method as the sounds translate much more easily to me than the numbers.

After studying with Karim last year, I really enjoyed his method and his performance. I love learning the proper Arabic terms for the music and rhythms. I love how he approaches it from a musician’s perspective and not only from a dance perspective. So this week, I grabbed his finger cymbals DVD, because, I don’t just want to learn to dance with the sagat. I want to learn to actually play them like an instrument.

PicsArt_05-01-08.36.05

We’ll see how well I do. I’m definitely going to spend a lot more time on these before I try to perform with them than I did with the assaya. Wish me luck! And pray for the poor ears of my cats.

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