Article written by Shining, www.shiningbellydance.com, created for Baksana’s February Finger Cymbal Awareness Month, 2-2018.
As with so many other piece of information, context is everything. Below, I’ve listed various contexts under the “Belly Dance” umbrella in which you might find someone playing finger cymbals while belly dancing, to help give you an idea of how the same fundamental rhythms and patterns are applied in different situations. In the next article we will talk about the many names finger cymbals carry throughout the Middle East and the context of finger cymbals in Egypt, in and outside the world of Belly Dance.
Vintage American Oriental
Influenced by Greek and Turkish dancers and music. Complex or continuous patterns (meaning less space between repetitions of a pattern) played by a solo dancer throughout a routine, using different rhythms (such as masmoudi sagir/baladi, chiftitelli, etc), patterns (like 123, 12345, 1234567 in various exchanging arrangements) and sound types (clap, ring, tek). Some dancers use teks instead of loud ring for slow or soft sections, some dancers did not play during slow section. Some dancers like Aida Al Adawi played their own “cymbal solo”.
Naima Greek Routine (start around 4:50 to hear cymbals played during a “soft/slow” section)
John Compton solo (start about 4:20 for finger cymbals)
Aida Adawi Cymbal Solo (start at 2:20 to hear finger cymbals most clearly)
Modern American Oriental
Most American Oriental/AmCab dancers now play a more simplified style using longa and runs, pausing where appropriate in the phrasing of the music.
Aziza (forgive the strange proportions of the video, cymbals start at 1:10)
Yana (makes use of longa and masmoudi segir)
Raqs Sharqi dancers in Egypt from about the 1920’s onward began to reduce their use of cymbals in dance routines, introducing a musician into their orchestras to play cymbals while she danced. When the dancer does play, she uses something akin to “half-ring” technique in simple “longa” (ba-da-dum, ba-da-dum, ba-da-dum) and running patterns, often during the Baladi (traditional urban music sections of the show) which last at most a few minutes, then removed her cymbals and continues with her show. Also used during tableaus like the Candelabra dance (Raqs Shamadan) to refer to the older traditions of Urban dance entertainment, or to reference rural entertainers like the Ghawzee. (This category is surprisingly hard to find videos on youtube of audible cymbal playing, I would say in general it is played a little faster than in the Nadia Hamdi clip below.)
Souheir Zaki (see 6:30-8:40)
Fifi Abdou (3:10-6:20 cymbals are not audible, but you can see attitude and hear music changes)
Nadia Hamdi (Candelabra dance, cymbals can be clearly heard throughout)
Nadia Fouad (plays throughout the first 18min of the video, during the first half of her show, hard to hear the cymbals, but around 16:30-16:50 you can make them out a little bit)
Upper Egyptian Ghawazee dancers, especially the Banat Mazin, are known for playing finger cymbals throughout their shows, usually longa and running patterns fitted with the music of the region.
Banat Mazin sisters (Starting 1:30)
Khyriya Mazin (starts with claps matching the beat, brief “longa” followed by running pattern throughout remaining video to match the upbeat tempo change, including pauses for singing)
Khyriya Mazin (first two min feature longa and some misc. accents, second half feature running pattern)
Unknown Upper Egyptian Ghawazee (two dancers, two different tempos 1:30-4:00 & 6:30-8:00)
The patterns are not so different in ATS, longa is the predominant pattern, but have a much more evenly-spaced feeling. All members tend to play the same patterns, some movement patterns have cymbal combinations built into them, but generally the playing is 4/4 and consistent throughout the upbeat sections of a show. Unlike a Solo American Oriental performer, the cymbals in this group style will play unceasingly throughout upbeat section of the music (rather than pausing at the end of certain phrases or during lulls in a song).
Fatchance (cymbals start 3:20)
ITS, Fusion, Fakelore and Other Group Cymbal Work
Not many Solo Fusion dancers make use of cymbals, but various groups in the fusion community including “fakelore” and other branches of theater and folkloric presentation do, and so the style of playing varies case by case, some groups have created their own format/sound presentation that incorporate elements of traditional (Middle Eastern) playing with western or other external influences.
Hahbi ‘Ru is a “fakeloric”/early “tribal” group that incorporates traditional Middle Eastern/N. African dance and music into their own aesthetic and theatrical storyline. (2:20-5:20 group cymbal playing)
Baksana is an semi-improvisational group (utilizing choreography sometimes) that ties movement combinations together with specific complex finger cymbal patterns, I do not personally know of any other group that has done this. (0.30-1:10 for group playing)
Bal Anat, The Salimpours’ troupe famous as the impetus of theatrical interpretation and “tribal” presentation in American Belly Dance had dancers who played cymbals as well as a supporting cast of background musicians. Focusing on just the dancing roles for this article, let’s look at this Turkish Romani tableau from (3:00-5:00 min), Sword routine (8:50-12:00) and another dancer using cymbals consistent with vintage American Oriental technique including a fun two handed technique, from (26:40-29:00).