Middle Eastern Rhythms with Zills
Here are some basic rhythms of belly dance to go through… listen to the beats, clap the rhythm, and then try with the zills. I will give you examples of zill patterns which I like, but try find your own rhythm patterns to play with each different rhythm. When clapping, a ‘Dum’ would be a loud clap with entire hand touching the other, and a tac  would be a softer clap- with the fingers slapping the heal of the other hand.
My format for the rhythms will be as follows:
1st line- Basic Rhythm in Dum’s and tac’s
2nd line- Timing (how many beats in the bar)- underlining the beats that are accented
3rd line- zill pattern in R (right) L (left) T (together)
4th line- zill pattern in counting- relating to the pattern above- remember 1 is always Right... like the metronome- if you get stuck- go over the notes in ‘tips for dancing with zills’
Turkish Gypsy - Karsilamas
note, you can only practice gypsy rhythms to gypsy music- as its 9/8 not four beats in the bar as we are used to!
9/8 dum dum dum  tac tac (HOLD)
9 beats in a bar
dum        dum        dum        tac      tac     (hold)
1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9
R              R         R           T         T
1        1        1        T    T
R        RLR        RLR        T    T
1        123        123        T    T
R        R        R        R L R L R
1        1        1        1 2 3 4 5
R        RLR         RLR        R L R L R
1        123        123        1 2 3 4 5
R L R L R            RLR        T    T
1 2 3 4 5             123        T    T
R L R L R            RLR        R L R L R
1 2 3 4 5             123          1 2 3 4 5
We should recognize these following Rhythms from our classes… hopefully!
Its best not to play the same rhythm as the drums are playing… ie – the basic rhythm.
It is common to use a little linking step between bars of music- don’t let it confuse you… it is simply a little ‘taka’ linking one cycle of the rhythm to the next.
 (eg in Masmoudi) its simply a quick RL with your zills.
Ayyoub –often used at the end of Arabic dance music- trance
2/4 Dum dumtac
Dum        dumtac
1        2   _  
R        R  L
1        1  2                BASIC AYYOUB RHYTHM
RLR         RLR
123         123
R         L      R  L    
1          2   1  2
R  RL        R  L
1  12        1  2
1234        1
R   RLRL    R
1   1224    1
Malfouf- often used at start of Arabic dance music- fast and rousing
2/4 dum tatak tatak         or even more simply       Dum     tac   tac     
Dum    tatak       tatak
1       _    _   2    _     _
1           1   2   3       1  2   3         1  2  3     1  2  3
R          R  L  R      R L R       R L R     R L R
common to play triples
All of the rhythms below- are from the same ‘family’- they all have the same beats- but where the accent is, determines which rhythm it is.
4/4                    1        +        2        +        3         +        4
Maqusoum               Dum    tac               tac       Dum                 tac    
Saaidi                  Dum    tac              Dum     Dum                 tac
Masmoudi Saghir         Dum    Dum              tac          Dum                 tac
8/4                       1        2        3       4        5            6          7       8
Masmoudi Kabir        Dum     Dum    (Dum)    tac          Dum                tac
As they are all basically made up of the same beats- you could literally play the same rhythms over all of them- AGAIN, YOU WOULDN’T NORMALLY PLAY ON THE DRUM RHYTHMS- SO HERE ARE SOME RHYTHMS TO TRY
Maqsoum- basic rhythm of Arabic dance music –also called wahda u noss
4/4 Dumtac tac Dumtac
Saadi- Originally used in Southern Egyptian Cane dance- now often used in Egyptian pop music.
4/4 Dumtac dumdum tac
Masmoudi Saghir (means small)- often appears in OR is called Baladi (meaning ‘my country/ my people’) music from Egypt- usually played slower than a maqsoum
4/4 Dumdum  tac   dum tac
4/4 Dumdum TakaTac  Dum TakaTac
            Dum      Dum             tac       Dum                 tac
Variation        Dum      Dum           takatac       Dum          takatac     (taka)
            1          _     2          _     3            4    
            R           R          RLR     R            RLR
            1           1          123        1            123
TRY     the        R          R         RLR         R           RLR     (rl)
variation        1           1         123         1            123     12
now try        R               R            R           RLR
these        1            1            1            123
            R            RLR            RLR            T T  (T= together)
            1                123            123            T T
            RLR            RLR            RLR            R
            123             123             123            1
            RLR            RLR            RLR            RLR
            123            123            123            123
                 R         L        R         L          R          L         R
            1       2        1         2        1         2        1
            R            R            R            RLRLR
            1            1            1            12345
            R             RLRLR                R            RLR
            1            12345                1            123
Masmoudi Kabir (means big/long): Rhythm from classical Arabic music
Basic Rhythm Structure the same as Saghir
8/4 Dum dum (dum) tac dum tac
Some more rhythms you could come across:
Zaffa Bridal rhythms used during processions
4/4 dum taka   tac tac    dum tac     tac
    1           2             3             4
Kariaatchi (in Arabic music)  or  Goubbahi  (basis of Algerian Rai and Moroccan music)  
Similar to the Ayuub, but unusual because the beginning accent is a ‘tac’ instead of a ‘dum’
2/4      Tac           tatak  Dum
    1             2        
Chiftetelli often used in Arabic music to support a solos of a melody instrument, in Turkish music it is used in a faster tempo than dance music.
8/4     dum tatak tatak dum dum tac
Barwali Basic rhythm in popular Moroccan music (Chaabi)
6/8    Tac           takdum
         1     2    3    4    5    6
Haddawi dance rhythm from Moroccan music- also used in trance dance
12/8    tac       tata  dum     tatac      ta   dum
    1    2   3   4   5    6  7  8   9   10    11    12
Compiled by Natasha van der Merwe of the HIP CIRCLE Belly Dance School in Cape Town South Africa, with the help of notes from Master dancer and Musician Letty Vos of Holland.
after coming to grips with your zills- learning the basic strokes- try to learn a little about the Middle Eastern Music you are playing to... I was lucky enough to spend some time with Dutch Master Dancer Letty Vos in Turkey, where she influenced much more than just my Dance style. Her Knowledge of the Rhythms is awesome- and these notes, would not have been possible if i had not met her.
                                                Natasha van der Merwe