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A Review of

How To Play Finger Cymbals With Mesmera

by Mesmera

 

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Summary

 

Overall Rating: StarStarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

This video features finger cymbal instruction by Mesmera, a dancer based in southern California. It is designed to take someone who already knows the basics of belly dance from knowing nothing at all about finger cymbals to being able to play them while dancing. It was produced by Harry Saroyan, a popular manufacturer of finger cymbals.

Mesmera delivers two performances in full costume on this video — one at the very beginning, and another at the end. She uses finger cymbals in both.

Topics covered on this video include:

  • Getting-started basics such as how to deal with the elastic, how to muffle them when practicing, etc.
  • Counting and basic technique such as the three types of sounds cymbals can produce.
  • How to do dance movements and play at the same time.
  • Varying the basic rhythms and producing the different types of sounds to keep the cymbals interesting.

On this video, Mesmera does not teach any belly dancing moves or combinations. It is assumed that you already know this. She focuses on how to use the moves you already know in conjunction with the finger cymbals.

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What Shira.net Users Think

 
1) How would you rate How to Play Finger Cymbals with Mesmera?
Absolutely fantastic!
Definitely would recommend it.
Good enough to be worth the money, but not special
Disappointing, but had at least a little value
Nothing good about it at all
 

The above poll includes responses submitted since October 28, 2002.

Note: Shira has a policy against video producers asking their students, family, and friends to pad the votes, or campaigning for favorable votes through their web sites. Click here for detailed information about the policy.

 

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Fact Sheet

Subject Matter Beginning Finger Cymbals
Recommended Dance Skill Level

Experienced Beginner
Early Intermediate
Intermediate

Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 57:53 minutes
Time Devoted to Instruction 42:25 minutes (73%)
Time Devoted to Performance 6:37 minutes (11%)
Time Devoted to "Other" 8:51 minutes (15%)
Choreography? No
List Price as of December 10, 2011 $29.95
Price Per Minute 61 cents
Price For "Other" $4.49

* Pricing information was current as of the date indicated above, but may have changed since then. Please contact the video producer for the most current pricing information.

 

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Description

This video was produced by Harry Saroyan, manufacturer of a popular line of high-quality finger cymbals for both students and professionals. The instructor is Mesmera, a well-known dancer from southern California. It's a winning combination — the production quality of the video is excellent, and Mesmera is skilled at both playing finger cymbals and teaching the use of them.

The instruction consists of:

  • Introduction to finger cymbals. How to select a set to purchase, install elastic, and mute them while practicing.
  • Different types of sounds that cymbals can produce.
  • Basic rhythms and how to count them.
  • How to dance at the same time as playing them.
  • How to vary the rhythms and tone quality to create an interesting result.
  • How to play along with the music.
  • Some rhythms used in Middle Eastern music, with suggested cymbal patterns to play with each.

The rhythms taught include:

Rhythm Name Teaching Time Comments
Baladi 4:40 The best segment of the rhythm section
Maqsoum 1:35 Well taught
Chiftetelli 1:00 Superficial, disappointing
Masmoudi 1:29 Well taught
6/8 :44 Superficial, disappointing
9/8 1:10 Superficial, disappointing

I feel the video tries to cover too much material in the time available, and therefore doesn't offer much information on any of it. The overall product would have been stronger if the segments on chiftetelli, 6/8, and 9/8 had been omitted, allowing more time to add some depth to the other rhythms. In fact, if Mesmera had chosen just one rhythm and focused solely on that, she would have been able to offer more instruction on the most difficult topic of all — how to dance while playing cymbals at the same time.

Following the instruction comes the weakest part of this video: the "Cymbal Display". Mesmera walks up to a display of the many styles of finger cymbals available from Saroyan Mastercrafts and exclaims over them while toying with them: "Just look at this! The sizes! The shapes!" I think it's fine for Harry to allocate time on this video to promote his cymbals, but the implementation is quite annoying. I would have preferred to see Mesmera take a more factual approach: select a cymbal, call it by name, comment on what type of dancer (student vs pro) she would recommend it for, and then strike it to produce the ring. Such an approach would have provided information to help steer viewers to knowing which they might want to buy. Fortunately, this section lasted only 2 1/2 minutes!

There is no information about history of finger cymbals or how they fit with different dance styles.

The video contains two performance segments in full costume by Mesmera — one at the beginning, and one at the end. Both, of course, involve playing finger cymbals. Mesmera is a skilled performer, and the production quality (lighting, camera angles, editing, etc.) showcases the performances quite well.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Video If

  • You're a belly dancing student who wants to learn finger cymbals, and you'd like to use a video to help you do that.
  • You've had at least 5-6 weeks of belly dance instruction, enough to know many of the basic moves.
  • You're an experienced dancer who doesn't know how to play finger cymbals, but wants to learn.
  • You're an experienced dancer who already knows how to play finger cymbals, but you'd welcome some new ideas from a highly-skilled pro.
  • You teach belly dance, and you'd like some ideas on how to teach finger cymbal skills to your students.
  • You've enjoyed seeing Mesmera perform in the past, or you've enjoyed a workshop that she taught, and you'd like to own a video that features her work.

 

This Video Probably Isn't Right for You If

  • You're such a brand-new student that you're still struggling to put together basic moves such as hip lifts, hip drops, figure 8's, etc. into a little dance. You may find this video difficult because it assumes you already have some dance knowledge.
  • You're hoping to learn something about the history of finger cymbals or how they are used in the Middle East today.
  • You're looking for musicality advice.
  • What you really want is in-depth instruction on Middle Eastern musical rhythms. Although this video offers exposure to several rhythms, it doesn't cover them in depth.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • Mesmera takes cymbal playing from the basics all the way through moving and playing at the same time. It provides enough material that a user won't outgrow it right away.
  • Mesmera offers a number of ideas that could benefit even dancers who are already experienced at playing finger cymbals. She gave me a few new things to think about.
  • Excellent production quality: suitable lighting, attractive set but not distracting, skillful camera work, and sensible editing.
  • Mesmera crosses her arms while demonstrating, to make it easier for someone watching her to match their right to her right, their left to her left. Very clever!
  • Mesmera uses correct musical counting techniques.
  • Mesmera performs with finger cymbals in two segments, showing how a finished performance with cymbals looks.
  • The packaging of the VHS tape offers an index of how many minutes into the tape each topic begins.
  • The section on musical rhythms includes live onscreen drumming by Jeremiah Soto (of Solace) and two of Mesmera's troupe members.
  • I enjoy the introductory information about Harry Saroyan and his on-camera remarks. Many dancers (including me) have enjoyed his finger cymbals, swords, costume coins, and musical recordings over the years, and it was nice to see his cameo appearance on this video that he produced.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • Mesmera uses the term "triplet" as the name for one of the cymbal patterns, which is a misuse of a term that already has a very specific, very different meaning in music. It greatly disappoints me when prominent teachers provide this kind of misinformation.
  • Mesmera's poor "acting" in the Cymbal Display section is very artificial and irritating.
  • The video tries to cover too much material in the time available, particularly in the section on rhythms. It would have been better to include fewer rhythms to allow more time for each.
  • I wish Mesmera had spent some time talking about the importance of silence. She demonstrates effective use of silence in her performances, but never teaches how to use it.
  • I wish some comments would have been included on how finger cymbals fit with different styles of belly dance.
  • It would have been nice to include some brief background on the history of finger cymbals.

 

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Movements Taught

Because the purpose of this video is to teach finger cymbal playing, and it assumes the user already knows basic dance technique, no movements are taught. I agree with this decision.

 

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In Conclusion

This video can serve as an informative introduction to playing finger cymbals, and is appropriate for someone who has never played them before.

 

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Reviews of Other Videos By This Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews or view opinion polls for other videos by Mesmera, choose from the lists below.

 

Instructional Videos:

 

Performances

 

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Disclosure

I've been a fan of Harry Saroyan's music, swords, and finger cymbals since the mid-1980's. He is my favorite manufacturer of finger cymbals. Over the years we have become well enough acquainted for me to consider him a friend. It is always a pleasure to talk with him at dance events. Harry has contributed some Armenian and Greek song translations to my web site. He sent me a complimentary copy of this video to use for my review.

I don't have anything to disclose regarding Mesmera. We have had brief professional contact, but I doubt she would recognize me if I walked up to her and said hello.

 

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Where to Get It

Contact Information

Saroyan Productions
P.O. Box 2056
Riverside CA 92516

Phone: (+1) (909) 783-2050
Fax: (+1) (909) 276-8510
Email: ZilsUSA@aol.com
Web Site: www.saroyanzils.com

 

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