Gilded Serpent presents...

2 Finger Cymbal Products

Zil Kits

Belly Dancing Book & Kit
Zill Speak, CD and Booklet by Artemis

Reviewed by Surreyya
posted December 13, 2009

Given two very different products with one common denominator, zills (or finger cymbals), I was bestowed the honor one weekend to try on, play and review these instruction tools.  Either will make a memorable holiday gift if carefully selected for the right giftee.  One is new (Artemis) and one you know you all have seen whether or not you want to fess up.  On to the confession… 

Belly Dancing Book and Kit – A kit by Nefertiti Presents, Sherry Jeffries and Mud Puddle Books
This kit is unique and interesting simply for its kitsch factor alone. With Rachel Brice slathered on the front cover and all over the packaging, it seems as though Rachel put out this product or clearly endorses it.  I am not sure why she would allow her image to be used (or if she even knows) on this product – which has nothing to do with her style of dance.  I also wonder why Sherry Jeffries does not have enough confidence in her own instruction to appear on the cover of her own book.  She is not unsightly by any means, perhaps it is the quality of the instruction?  On with the show!

The kit contains:  1 music CD,  1 set finger cymbals, 1 belly dance instruction booklet.

The music CD – the only description for songs available here is “fast, slow, fast, slow (floor),  (opening, ending, second routine), etc.”, there are only names assigned for the last two tracks.  Fortunately the musicians are at least credited.  The music isn’t fantastic, meaning the production quality is far from superb.  It does sound a bit like it was taken from an old 50s
or 60s film, minus the orchestra, and feeling.  Perhaps done “straight to tape” as they did in that era.  Any pertinent details to the songs and artists are sadly absent.

The finger cymbals:  The cheapest money can buy, likely made by orphaned children in a third world country, yet an exceptional value for $9 at Borders books.  Especially for those non-committal or exceptionally thrifty students you may have.

The instructional booklet – pure kitch.  A somewhat nostalgic reminder of the books my older sister bought and poured over in the 70s, with vintage costumes, staged poses and arrows and diagrams, only condensed with less information, highly dangerous instruction on the Turkish drop – literally, “…spin around two or three times, drop to your knees and lie all the way to the ground.  You can use your arm to help lower yourself back to the ground.”  Ouch.   No warm-up ideas and the only caution offered, “…do not go any further than your body permits.”  The best and most useful advice offered in this book is “Find a good teacher, practice hard, and you will become what you wish to become.”

Granted it is difficult to teach belly dance by written words and images, but others (Dahleela, Bert Belladine, Jamilla/Suhaila Salimpour) have managed to put quality instruction and imagery to good use.  This book attempts to brush the surface of many movements without the detail, and ads many confusing and contradicting terms, i.e. shoulder “thrusts”.  That just sounds painful.

In summary, you get what you pay for. 

Suggested uses for this product – quick set of practice zills for a student if there is no dance shop nearby, or if mail order is too long a wait.  Nick nack for your dance studio shelf.  Gag gift for fellow dancers, teachers, colleagues, or white elephant gift at a holiday party.  Tis the season!

Zil Rating: 1 zill for the clever packaging
Zil Rating: 1

Artemis's CD

Cymbals Speak: Volume 1- Zill Speak – Finger Cymbals from Almee to Zill featuring Artemis

Once again Artemis puts out a product full of insight, background and educational content that is easy to grasp, entertaining and fun to learn. Zill Speak is an educational CD full of interesting finger cymbal rhythms presented in several time signatures for the listener to digest and play alongside. Included in this CD package is an instructional booklet intended to supplement the listener with a visual and more elaborate definition of the content on the CD. 

I love this CD and would highly recommend it to my students, and for other teachers to also recommend to their students.

Artemis’ spoken presentation on the audio CD is very helpful and understandable, and she provides fun phrases to follow along “I like pizza pie with lots of pepperoni” so a beginner can begin to understand the character and foundation of the rhythms presented.  While I have seen other teachers scorned for this type of instruction, I find it incredibly useful in absorbing the musicality
of the phrasing and patterns – especially since not all dancers are musicians, or may not come from a background in music instruction.  Most of my music teachers have utilized this approach at one time or another.  Artemis offers a comprehensive overview on counting, phrasing in odd time signatures, and an explanation of the common rhythms we come to know in modern day Middle Eastern dance.  What is especially great about Artemis’ teaching style, is that she remains non biased in her approach.  

She does not insist there is only one way to play, only one rhythm to follow, nor only one technique to apply, and does not limit the listener with crazy half-baked rules and regulations to “zilling.”  What she does do is offer very common sense based ideas supported in experience and application.

My only negative on feedback on this package is the interior booklet – there is so much information – the organization of the content might be worth rethinking. While in some circumstances it may be seen as a bonus to have extras, it was difficult for me to follow along with the CD.  Frequently information is presented out of track order, and at times the content for a sequential order of tracks, or in another section of the book entirely, making the listener have to flip back and forth to keep up with the CD.  The diagram of the anatomy of hands, fingers, and forearms has too little information to support its generous real estate on the interior booklet – I found myself looking for warm-up exercises, common injuries and strains and some ideas to prevent them, but nothing was there to support the imagery.  There is a nice history lesson on zills, how they fell out of favor, and how to choose the perfect zills for your style and performance based on many criteria.  Also the colors of the booklet and small font make it difficult to read at times.

On the positive, it is easy to critique someone else’s hard work.  It must have been difficult to decide what to put in and what to edit out of this booklet without selling a student short, not busting your budget, and keeping within the constraints of a CD booklet.  I truly appreciated the content and Artemis’ teaching style shining through on this CD.  I am always amazed that when ever I watch or review one of Artemis’ instructionals that I feel l am truly getting a private one on one lesson with her – as if she were really in the room next to me guiding me step by step.  Short of an airline ticket, hotel stay and funds for several days of private lessons, this CD is an exceptional value for an almost identical experience.

Purchase information:

Zil Rating: 4 zills playing in 9/8! 
Zil Rating: 4

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  1. sherry Jeffries

    Jan 29, 2010 - 05:01:33

    I am the author of the Nefertiti presents, Belly Dancing the basics and owner of the Nefertiti presents, the Best of Belly Dance CD sold in the Belly Dance Book and Kit. 

    I made this book as a tribute to my mother who died in 1999.  She opened the first belly dance studio in Phoenix about 1974 and had it open until 1980.  I grew up learning to belly dance.  When she was sick and dying I found a stack of pictures which I knew were going to be used to write a small book.  So I took her pictures and made the book for her.  These pictures were take in the 1970’s.  The book is made with her picture (Nefertiti) not with Rachael Brice’s picture.  She also had the ALBUM, which I had digitally re-engineered to become a CD.  On the CD, it gives all the information about the musicians.  The songs on the ALBUM were all together in two routines with two small songs also.  So I broke the tracks to create individual tracks.  However there is NO information on what songs they are, or anything on the ALBUM, so I had no way of putting the information on the CD.  And yes, it was recorded in a very small studio here in Phoenix with 4 musicians.  Not a large production. 

    A publisher (Mud Puddle) asked me to use the rights of the book and CD to make a kit.  The first run of the kit has some very good zills, however the last two runs, they put cheaper and cheaper zills in it.  It was a total surprise to me that they put Rachael Brice’s picture on it.  I had signed an agreement that they could change the cover and the layout, mine is a landscape 8 1/2 x 11 inch book with my mothers picture on it. But I never knew they were going to use somebody else picture. I only get $0.20 cents per sell of the kit.  But I could NEVER have afforded to make my own, plus it is very difficult to get books distributed to book stores.  I only sell mine at  See link at the bottom of this.

    Now, you must remember this book represents the way they taught in the 1970s.  We were all taught to do the turkish drop.  It was a normal part of the routine.  This is for nostalgia.  We used to dance 40 minutes at a time, not the 5 to 10 minutes like today.

    Also the wording is from the 1970’s and that is the way it was taught.  These younger people who now have a standard language for shoulder shimmy’s (slow and fast) don’t get the idea that we didn’t.  We called it a bust shake. 

    There was only these few pictures to work with, and this is strictly for fun.  I was never meant to be a total program to learn from.

    And get this, they even spelled my name wrong, Sherry Jeffries

  2. LynetteSerpent

    Jan 29, 2010 - 06:01:35

    HI Sherry,
    Thanks for the note and leaving a comment. A review is a critique and essential to the growth of any arts community.  So please don’t be upet with the reviewer. She did what I asked her to do! There was nothing in the products to give us any indication to the back story.  Having this additonal history now available to the community is incredibly valuable!  We can now connect the 2 versions of the book and know that this book wasn’t fabricated by an outside publishing company like some pretty boy band meant for tweens.  Instead its intention was  in honor of your mother, a pioneer in our community!  I hope we will now hear more from you about her.  We have an additional resource page on books that will soon be available that will help us put books like this in the context of the times that they were originally created.  Thanks again Sherry and to Surreyya too!

  3. sherry Jeffries

    Jan 29, 2010 - 06:01:48

    My pleasure!  If you have any other question just e-mail me or comment and I’ll do what I can to answer them.

  4. Shira

    Jan 30, 2010 - 09:01:11

    I have not seen the complete kit, but I am familiar with Sherry’s book.  I posted a review of it on my web site in 2003, shortly after Sherry self-published the original book.  My review can be found at

    In reading Sureyya’s review, I’m thinking she’s not aware of the fact that several years ago Rachel Brice did some modeling for a photographer, and signed a model release authorizing that photographer to sell the photos he took of her to any idiot that wants to use them.  Her photos can be purchased through “stock photography” services, and the model release that she signed means this can be done without her knowledge or approval of how these photos might be used.  It’s obvious to me that the commercial publisher who released Sherry’s book as part of this kit simply purchased one of those photos from the stock photography service, and neither Rachel nor Sherry had anything to say about it.

    I think it’s a shame that the publisher used Rachel’s photo for the cover instead of one of the photos of Nefertiti.  It deceives potential buyers by misrepresenting the 1970’s-era contents of the book, and it also detracts from Sherry’s original purpose in creating the book, that of honoring her mother.

    I was dismayed to discover that this unscrupulous publisher has plagiarized me!  Compare the first paragraph of the “Summary” part of my 2003 review (at the above link) with the “Product Description” that appears on the page of that sells this book!

  5. Shira

    Jan 30, 2010 - 12:01:55

    Ah, I found a link to one of those stock photo web sites that sells that photo of Rachel:

  6. sherry Jeffries

    Jan 31, 2010 - 11:01:19

    I am happy the way the kit turned out.  I figure all things that brings light to the belly dance community can’t be wrong.  The MudPuddle publishers have been very nice to me and do a great job distributing the kit.  It can mostly be found at Borders books, has a low price which makes it affordable, and is a fun way to just take a look at belly dance moves and old time music.  So for the price, I think they did a good job.

  7. LynetteSerpent

    Feb 1, 2010 - 04:02:13

    This review and its background story highlight important issues in our community:
    –The need for unsentimental critique,
    –accepting critique graciously,
    –the growth of a community and its changing needs, 
    –safety issues,
    –how the general public sees BD and how we feed into stereotypes or not,
    –Now much is fame worth?
    –Pirating- photo, products, text.  How does it feel when its done to us?
    — copyright  and other legal issues
    –Honoring our mentors
    Thanks for the discussion.

  8. Ruth Pace

    Mar 2, 2014 - 01:03:17

    okay, I know I’m a bit late to this discussion – I just bought the kit at a discount store. Just to have in my collection. I agree the zills could have been of better quality, but for someone who is just starting out, they’re not too bad.
    yes, in the 70’s we called them shoulder thrusts.
    the cd: I have the original vinyl album – music by Fahim Sadi – I am looking at it right now – there is no song title – side one says Full Belly Dance Routine – time: 19:28
    side two says 14 minute routine & music for practice – total time 19:57
    amazon has for it’s MP3 download listings song titles called Fatima and Reta, the cd says Fatima and Rita.
    on the outside of the vinyl record, someone (probably my dance teacher, from whom I got a lot of records from) had written – side 2 – 19:57 – drum – 2:15
    There is no date anywhere on the album – altho it was released after 1977 as Nefertiti says in a small autobio – she performed at a 1977 Star Trek convention in Phoenix AZ. – the album seems to have been produced in Phoenix. hope this gives more info on the product.

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