The Art of Playing Finger Cymbals with Momo Kadous
DVD Review by Zumarrad
posted September 17, 2010
Momo Kadous is a master zill player and Egyptian folkloric dancer. In “The Art of Playing Finger Cymbals”, he teaches zill technique, rhythms, and movement combinations in a detailed resource that is somewhat difficult to catagorize.
The DVD covers Masmoudi Kebir, Masmoudi Saghir, Maqsoum and Ayoub rhythmic patterns with zills and drum, “variation elements”, ways to create different sounds with your zills and some examples of entrances and movement variations with the sagat. The latter material is great for more experienced dancers and zill players. With his elegant carriage, Momo is marvellous to watch! His zill playing is beautiful, too; he can make those cymbals talk! Unfortunately, there’s no root menu, so you can’t just go straight to this or any other chapter on which you’d like to work. You need to fast-forward through all of the chapters.
The sections in which Momo couples zills with movement are very well dissected, and he also breaks down the patterns and rhythms thoroughly.
The footage is shot in an studio space without mirrors, decorated with a few Egyptian furnishings. It’s well-lit and Momo, dressed in black, is easy to follow. There are a few occasional background noises but nothing truly distracting.
All the dance material is framed to show the full length of his body, and in closeup when he focuses solely on zill technique. He kindly crosses his hands in front of himself so you do not need to treat him as a mirror while you learn to play the patterns – again, helpful for a beginner. He doesn’t break down more complex variations, though he does play them.
Things start to get really interesting when he introduces variations of tone, and I wish he had devoted more of the DVD to this technique.
If you have played zills before, you will not learn any new patterns here. However, while the patterns Momo teaches are suited to beginner players, the movement combinations he selects to go with them are really not. When your first attempt at moving while playing cymbals is Masmoudi Kebir with Arabesques and a fiddly little turn, you had better be one hell of a beginner! On the other hand, Momo’s footwork-heavy combinations might delight a more experienced dancer.
The exhaustive system of arm/hand positions he introduces at the start, all with letter-number names (0A, 6B), are seldom referred to by name later, but the system could be very useful for a teacher or troupe choreographer.
Similarly, although Momo tells us how to put on zills, he doesn’t go into the sort of detailed information a brand-new zill player would need. (How do you choose your elastic? How tight is it supposed to be? How is it attached and what are those white things inside the zills covering the knot of your elastic? How, if at all, do they affect the sound?)
Momo’s accent is relatively strong, and his explanations are quite wordy, which may make this DVD difficult to follow if you are not used to listening to non-native English speakers or, conversely, if you are a non-native speaker of English yourself. Nonetheless, there is a lot of information to be gleaned if you’re able to listen closely.
I would not recommend this DVD to a completely novice zill player, and it contains a lot of material that will seem extraneous to a more experienced one, but there is plenty of value in it. I feel the DVD is let down by its format and by its breadth; it is far too difficult for a beginner, yet, not quite nit-picky-enough technique for an advanced player. It would be an excellent supplement to ongoing classes or practice, rather than as a means of learning how to play from scratch.
Rating: 2.5 zils
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