Zills ("sagât" in Arabic) are small metal cymbals held in the palm of one’s hand. They are percussion instruments used in traditional music-making and they give a typically Eastern flavour when played. Gypsy dancers (ghawazees) and Eastern dancers use them too with more basic rhythms to accompany their movements.
It is probable that they have ancient origins and are similar to the family of the sistrum, crotalum, castanets and other small hand-held instruments used in ancient cults and festivals, especially those in praise of the goddess Cybele.
There are various examples seen in Golden Age films in Egypt (especially the famous dance of Naima Akef in "Tamerhenna"). They are still widely used in Turkey.
Clément d’Alexandrie en attribue l’invention aux Siciliens, & en défend l’usage aux Chrétiens,
à cause des mouvemens & des gestes indécens que l’on faisoit en joüant de cet instrument.
Learning zills (sagattes in Arabic) is an excellent exercise in developing coordination skills and a sense of rhythm. The courses run by Eve consist of rhythmic exercises designed to integrate "physically" the structures of rhythm and metric pulse. They are perfect for people who have received musical training as well as those who haven’t.
Zills can be used to make various rhythm combinations with, to a certain extent, changes in tone. Here are some examples of zill rhythms which can be played to accompany dance.