Finger Cymbals and Raqs Sharki

What are Finger Cymbals?

Finger Cymbals have been an integral part of a Raqs Sharki (belly dance) performance for decades and perhaps longer.

Known as Sagat in Egypt and Zills in Turkey, these magnificent percussion instruments provide a unique musical accompaniment for a dancer. They can be used with live music, recorded music and even acapella. For American dancers, the use of finger cymbals was a requirement when this dance was featured in the night clubs in places like New York and San Francisco where there was a major influx of Middle Eastern, Greek, and Armenian cultures during the 60’s and 70’s. This even carried through to the 80’s and beyond.

How can I learn to play?

There are a number of class offerings available thru March 2024 at Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance Studios – my class is on Tuesdays at 7:30pm and Majda Anwar teaches a class on Sundays – check out for more information.

If you are not in the Atlanta area – there are likely class offerings in your area or you can look into classes online.

Where can I purchase Finger Cymbals?

I have a few recommendations for great finger cymbals. It is important to get good quality cymbals that will provide a clear sound, have the right dimension and weight for your hands. Below are vendors that I have personally bought from over the years.

Turquoise International – I use the Size B Oriental – 2 ½” but there are many other options and a varity of sizes.

Saroyan Cymbals – a plethora of options here. Very high quality! I have used Afghani style, Saroyan Pro, and Arabesque II. These are fairly expensive but worth it!

Suhaila Cymbals – these are actually made by Turquoise International specially for Suhaila. They come in 3 sizes.

How long will it take to learn?

First, be patient. It will take as long as it takes. There is no formula for how long it will take to get good at playing finger cymbals. The same can be said for learning Raqs Sharki (belly dance). It takes dedication and a lot of practice – focus on the journey rather than the destination.

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