Belly Dancing and Live Music Show in Sacramento

Live music Egyptian style in Sacramento.

Thursday nights are the best belly dancing nights in Sacramento, CA. Why? Come down to Kasbah Lounge in Midtown Sacramento to find out!

Starting at about 9:30pm on Thursdays and lasting till midnight, you will be treated to a belly dance show with live music. These live music belly dance shows are even a rarity in San Francisco so we are really fortunate to have them up here in Sacramento.

Flowers of the Nile Midtown Belly Dance

Belly dancing with Flowers of the Nile

1st, 3rd, and 5th Thursdays

Providing an amazing cultural experience, Flowers of the Nile perform beautiful and fun Egyptian classics ranging from folk songs to Golden Era singers like Om Kalthoum, Mohammed Abdel Wehab, and Abdel Halim Hafez to songs made famous by Middle Eastern pop star Hakim.

Belly dancing is done best to live music. The combination of Flowers of the Nile’s oud, flute, and doumbek drum with the belly dancer’s zills (finger cymbals) and dance moves blend into an enchanting show that will transport you to an authentic night at a Middle Eastern tea and hookah cafe. Kasbah Lounge has a beautifully decorated covered courtyard to keep you dry and heat lamps to keep you warm so you can enjoy the live music and belly dancing year round; even on cold rainy nights.

The Flowers of the Nile attract a great crowd whom play tambourines, clap to the rhythm, and sing along with the band to songs from their home countries. If you do not speak Arabic, you can still appreciate the beautiful music and clap along with the drum beats.  Don’t be surprised if you feel compelled to get up and dance without the belly dancer’s encouragement!

Belly dance show with live music in Sacramento

Belly dance show with live music at Kasbah Lounge in Sacramento.

Although there is belly dancing every night of the week by many different talented belly dancers at Kasbah Lounge, live music Thursdays are truly my favorite nights to belly dance in Sacramento.



Ahoy! A Nautical Birthday Party Idea in San Francisco

Last night I performed in a fantasy world of pirates, mermaids, buried treasure, and a beautiful old ship. But, this birthday party was not for a child; it was tastefully remade as an adult fairy tale.

Mermaid belly dancer

San Francisco mermaid and pirates

To arrive at Forbes Island, a half island, half boat restaurant venue in San Francisco, guests rode a private water taxi amongst barking sea lions. The island was complete with a light house, white sand beaches, palm trees, and a Tahitian thatched beach hut serving as a dance floor with DJ Alex. Below the island was an elegantly decorated nautical themed dining room. The portholes gave a view of the underwater scenery and the large central fireplace kept guests warm on a chilly San Francisco night.

The birthday boy was surprised by two pirates who entertained the guests as they dined by telling salty sea stories and demanding to know where the treasure was.  At the end of the meal, the birthday boy found a riddle that told of where the treasure was and that it was guarded by a siren. The pirates handed the sword to the birthday boy for protection as he and the guests rushed upstairs to the beach where the long haired sea maiden was waiting for him.

Forbes Island

Forbes Island

In a rhinestone-covered seashell top and mermaid tail decorated with shells, sequins, rhinestones, and starfish,  I performed a mermaid themed belly dance show while the birthday boy nervously held onto his sword. The wind blew my hair all over the place for an unexpected special effect that made me look like I was dancing underwater. The birthday boy was a good sport (after a couple of Mai-Tais and some encouragement by me) and showed off his belly dancing skills to his friends and family during the show. During his belly dance debut, I stole the sword from him and performed a sword balancing routine to end the performance.

After his final bow, a beautiful birthday cake was presented to the birthday boy by his beautiful wife and the night continued on with DJ dancing, a fun photobooth, drinks below at the galley bar, and trips up the lighthouse to marvel at the beautiful view of downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. A fantasy-filled birthday party indeed!

View of San Francisco from the lighthouse.


5 Ways to Improve your Zill (Finger Cymbal) Playing

Playing zills/sagat (finger cymbals) during your belly dance performance is a great way to add excitement and more skill to your show. Playing zills during your belly dance performance is also a great way to drive your audience away and searching for an aspirin bottle.

1. Limit your zill playing

Zills finger cymbals to live music in Sacramento

Playing zills with live music in Sacramento

The drummer is already keeping the song rhythm so there is no reason to mirror the drumming for the entire song. Play for a couple phrases through a melody and then switch to adding accents for a while. There is no better way to agitate an audience than playing a gallop/triple through an entire song.

2. Share the sound space

In Arabic music, the singing is a very important part of the song. If audience members understand Arabic, they will want to hear the lyrics, not constant zilling over the voice. This is especially important when dancing with a live band. Limit your heavy finger cymbal playing to the musical interludes and use accents during the verse and chorus sections. This also applies to instrumental pieces where an instrument takes the place of the singer.

3. Vary your intensity 

Singers and melody musicians play different notes. Drummers also make different sounds by using different drums or hitting the same drum in different ways. Although you may not consider yourself a musician, you are playing a musical instrument and need to follow suit to make the song pleasant to listen to. At the very least, finger cymbals can make 3 different sounds. A flat clack or clap, a ring, and a click.

  • To make the clack or clap sound, use your pointer and/or ring finger to stabilize the zill so the sound is muted when you hit the zills together.
  • To make the ring sound, make sure nothing is touching the zill (except for where it is attached to your finger) and release the zills immediately after hitting them together.
  • To make a clicking sound, play the finger cymbals in a “T” formation where the thumb zill is vertical and the middle finger zill is horizontal.

4. Learn your rhythms and use them

If your current belly dance teacher doesn’t teach finger cymbals, instructional books, tapes, and videos are a second best. If you do a quick Google search for “finger cymbal instruction”, you will find a wide variety of books, CDs, and DVDs to buy. I recommend using Mary Ellen Donald’s finger cymbal instructional book and CDs. Start by learning the basic rhythms and learn how to recognize them. If the drummer is playing a fellahi rhythm, you should either be playing it too or accenting where appropriate. Playing a different rhythm can confuse the musicians or make a recorded CD sound too “busy”.

5. Take time to prep your zills

This may seem like a no brainer, but how many of us have played finger cymbals that were either too tight and cutting off circulation, or too loose and flopping around to mumble the rhythm? Safety pins are not the answer to securing the elastic. Safety pins will get hammered out of shape eventually and will either fall off or the pin will stick in the elastic of the opposite zill and keep it stuck shut. The safety pins and extra elastic will also dampen the sound in a finger cymbal. Measure the elastic so it fits snug on your fingers and sew the ends together so they overlap and don’t leave a tail hanging in the bell space. To keep your zills fitting properly, don’t let other people wear them. They might stretch out the elastic if their fingers are bigger than yours and you’ll have to spend time sewing new elastic on.


For more information on finger cymbals, check out these articles by Yasmin and Artemis and Shira’s online finger cymbal workshop.
Have more finger cymbal advice that I didn’t talk about or links to other zill articles you like? Please leave them in the comment box below. Thank you!