Zills: The Tiny Little Bells of Belly Dance

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The most identifiable rhythm accessories of belly dance are usually attached to the dancer’s hands. They’re called cymbals. Have you heard of them?

What Are Finger Cymbals?


(music) A concave plate of brass or bronze that produces a sharp, ringing sound when struck: played either in pairs, by striking them together, or singly by striking with a drumstick or the like.

Source: Wiktionary

Using Cymbals in Belly DanceFrom the Greek word “Kymbala,” cymbals are the little bells or percussion instruments you might have seen on the hands of belly dancers. History tells us that this practice dates back to 300 A.D. These accessories are also known as “sagat” in Arabic or “zills” in Turkish, are usually made of a copper-nickel alloy and tend to be sold in sets of four, so you get two for each hand.

The three most common belly dance rhythms for which zills are used are:

  • Baladi
  • Karatchi or Karachi
  • Fallahi

These staples of the belly dance culture were originally associated with magic and rituals. The sound that is generated by them was intended to help produce a state of trance in those listening, as well as to assist in focusing energy. Cymbals are essential to Middle Eastern music, as they create amazing musical patterns like no other instrument.

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.

Source: Bellydance.One

Like everything else in life, the use of zills is great as long as it’s in moderation. Overusing them in a belly dance choreography will make them lose their appeal. They are normally used at the beginning of a belly dance performance and for a short period of time. Modern dancers will typically attach the cymbals to their thumb and middle fingers, using elastic to secure them in place.

Immerse Yourself in the Magic of Belly Dance

Belly dance is a wonderful style of dance full of cultural richness. At Bella Diva Dance, we are proud to be able to share a little bit of that culture with you. Curious about the use of zills? We’ll teach you all about the use of dance props including the veil, and zills will also be taught throughout the year in our beginner, intermediate, and advanced belly dance classes.

Check out our Bella Diva Belly Dancers performing “Moon Over ala Nar” with zills in the video below. We love this epic finger cymbal piece! If you would like to be part of these great classes and performances, stop by our studio or give us a call and join us.