Finger Cymbal Patterns for Beginners, continued
Video "how to play" Finger Cymbals Patterns for Chifti-telli (below)

Chifti-telli, the Sensual Rhythm

Part 6 of the How-To Series on Finger Cymbals for Belly Dancing

Zaghareet! Magazine, "For Beginners" (May/June 2009)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

Chifti-telli is usually a slow, 8 beat rhythm; at least, the American, Greek, and Turkish versions are slow. The Arabic versions are fast and have a much different flavor. So a slow Chifti-telli is a good choice for you as a beginning cymbal player, because you’ll be able to keep up with the beat much more easily. I mean, your fingers will – the catch (isn’t there always a catch?) is that it’s harder to dance slowly. Belly dancing slowly will show you “in a hurry” where  you need more muscle strength and control in your movements; but that makes it a great way to develop your skills. 

Find a slow Chifti-telli song and try some figure-8 hip movements or slow travel step as you play your foundation patterns (Singles, Doubles, Rolls, Triples) until you’re comfortable with the rhythm, and with moving so slowly. Most American belly dance bands will have a Chifti-telli song on any given CD because it’s such a popular rhythm here in the U.S! You can search online in Amazon’s mp3 downloads for Chifti-telli and you’ll find various tempos and interpretations of the rhythm. I used my own song "Streaming Winds" (Orbiter) for both the tutorial and the demonstration. If you can’t find a Chifti-telli or just want to practice without music, set the metronome (metronomeonline.com) to 72 bpm - s-l-o-w!

Combine Shorter Patterns for Chifti-telli

Once you’re comfortable playing simple patterns to the slow tempo of this rhythm, think about reflecting the structure of the rhythm by combining TWO different 4-count cymbal patterns to cover the 8 beats of the Chifti-telli rhythm. This will be similar to what we did in video clips #2 & 4, when we alternated cymbal patterns. But, we don’t want it to sound too busy! Let’s keep it simple.

Using the foundation patterns, we can make a tasteful rhythmic accompaniment for Chifti-telli as follows: 1-3--1-3; then 1-1-1. And for fun, why not use “claps” for the last sequence of “1-1-1", by muting the cymbals with your index and ring fingers, and holding the cymbals together longer after they strike. I’ll demonstrate both patterns and add simple dance movements in the companion video clip. If you're a graphical person, check out Figure 1, below:

            cymbal pattern

Add More Filling Inside the Pattern

When we add more “stuff” when playing a rhythm, we call it “filling” or “fill-in”. I know, I’m real technical like that! As long as you accentuate the main accents of a rhythm, the spaces in between are up for open to possibilities. So we can spice up this recipe with a little more “fill-in” if we play:1-3-3-3; then Rolls from count 5 to 7. It would look like Figure 2, below:

finger cymbals

Yay! But, if Rolls are too fast for you to play well yet, just do Doubles, like we did with the Ayub pattern in the last article.

And For Even Tastier Playing...

For a more advanced sound, change the first half of your sequence to counterpoint the accents of Chifti-telli by playing a syncopated pattern like: 1-3-1-3-1. It almost LOOKS the same as the ones we did above, but it’s very different in the sound. Then choose whichever pattern you wish for the second half - Single claps, Doubles, or Rolls. Figure 3, below:

more advanced finger cymbals

It’s not as hard as you think, it just takes getting used to. It’s one of those funny patterns where the Dominant Hand is playing continuously while the Non-dominant hand drops in and out – kind of like Triples, but different.

After revisiting this rhythm I’m kind of sorry that my performance career mainly focused on Egyptian style so I never spent much time on fun pieces like these Chifti-telli’s. Music that features the Chifti-telli rhythm are versatile pieces and can find a place in most of the other belly dance styles including Tribal Fusion, Turkish, American, and Interpretive belly dance.

This is one rhythm you MUST explore!

Continue with chiftitelli patterns in the next article.

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