Finger Cymbals - called zils or zills in Turkey and sagat or zagat in Arabic. These are tiny cymbals used in belly dancing and similar performances. They are similar to Tibetan tingsha bells. A set of zils consists of four cymbals, two for each hand. To see our other belly dance accessories, view our main belly dance accessories page.
Modern dancers use elastic to secure the zils, one to the thumb and one to the middle finger of each hand. A hole or two slots allow the threading of the elastic through the zil. When you recieve your finger cymbols, you'll need to insert the elastic before the first time you use them. Begin by measuring the distance around one of your middle fingers near the joint closest to your fingertip. Add an inch, then cut two pieces of elastic that length. Thread each end through one of the slots so the loop is on top of the finger cymbal and the ends stick out on the bottom. Next, slip your finger through the loop at the top of the finger cymbal, then pull on the elastic at the bottom until it fits your finger securely. You'll know it's secure when the elastic won't slip on your finger. Now on the underside of the finger cymbal, mark a spot on the elastic next to the slot. Do this on both slots. Pull the ends so the loop lies flat against the top of the finger cymbal. Secure the ends at the spot you marked using the supplied safety pin. Cut off the excess ends, leaving about 1/8 inch of elastic sticking out beyond the safety pin. Do the same for the thumbs. If the elastic wears out, it can be replaced with a flat kind of elastic called braid elastic found at most fabric stores. Make sure the elastic is 1/8 inch wider than the finger cymbal slots.
Zils belong to the standard instruments used in Ottoman military bands and also occasionally appear as part of Western orchestral or other musical performances. In these cases musicians usually just call them finger cymbals and use them to obtain a ringing sound with "Middle Eastern" associations. Percussionists playing finger cymbals sometimes use a less complicated technique than the traditional one used by dancers. The musician holds one cymbal in each hand by gripping the strap between the thumb and the index finger, and plays them by striking the rims together. They use this technique for occasional flourishes in the music rather than for complex rhythms and sounds.