CLAPPERS; Krotala, Kaşik (Spoons), Castanets, Zills.

The Clapper family of instuments is likely humanity’s oldest.

Encyclopædia Britannica says here:

Clapper, musical instrument consisting of pieces of wood, bone, metal, or other sonorous substance either held in both hands or, fastened together, held in one hand, sometimes with a handle, and struck against each other.

Beginning of the fabulous Romani film, Latcho Drom (Safe Journey). Around 1:40, you’ll see Romani clappers, though you’ve been hearing them for much longer.

Clappers have been played throughout the world since ancient times, often with a ritual, warning, work-coordinating, or signaling function, rather than a musical one.

Clappers vary widely in size, shape, and number and arrangement of striking pieces. Varieties include spoons, bones, castanets, and small, tuned finger cymbals (“ancient cymbals”).

Finger Cymbals, Zills, Sagat

  • Greece, Hellenistic Period, ca. 3rd to 1st century BCE. A fine and rare pair of bronze finger cymbals called krotala (singular krotalon) used by female or dwarf dancers and performers (called krotalistriae). Each krotalon is constructed from a flat sheet of bronze that is mold-cast with a concave body, an upturned rim, and protruding central kick with a petite perforation. The tops of the cymbals are adorned with a series of raised concentric rings that form a minimalist bullseye motif. Krotala like these would have been suspended to the dancer’s forefinger and thumb via twisted strands and struck rhythmically to create a bright ringing sound; the concave body and flared rim enabled the elongated reverberation of the sound created. Fine patina has enveloped both instruments. Similar to the modern Spanish castanet, krotala were often played ceremonially during certain events. Size of each (both are relatively similar): 2.1″ Diameter (5.3 cm); 4.75″ H (12.1 cm) on included custom stand.
Egyptian Sagat
Egyptian ivory clappers, c. 2000 bc; in the British Museum, London
Egyptian ivory clappers, c. 2000 bc; in the British Museum, London. Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum, London

Some Egyptian ivory sets (c. 2000 bc) are shaped like arms and hands, implying that clappers began as extensions of natural body sounds like hand clapping. The Greek krotala (Roman crotala) were dancers’ rattles, or castanetlike finger cymbals, and an extant Greek statue depicts a satyr playing foot clappers. The Roman scabella, derived from their Greek counterparts kroupezai, or kroupala, were wooden sandals used for beating time.

Oceania – ‘ili ‘ili, pu ‘ili

Oceania is rich in continuing examples: the Aboriginal peoples of Australia click two boomerangs, and Hawaiians click small stones (‘ili ‘ili) set on each hand,

or two pieces of split bamboo (pu ili).


Korean court-music ensembles preserve the ancient Chinese practice of signaling the start or end of a piece by quickly closing a set of six wooden slats strung together at the top (pak). Japanese courtly Shintō music is marked by the sound of shakubyōshi, two thin sticks, while Shintō folk dances may use long sets of attached wood slats (binzasara) with handles for each hand that clash as the arms are moved back and forth.

In Kabuki theatre, a pair of thick wooden sticks (ki or hyōshigi) signals the opening and closing of curtains. In some neighbourhoods in Japan, following the English tradition, fire guards wander through the night, sounding clappers.”

Ancient Greece – Crotalum, Krotalum

Wikipedia sez: In classical antiquity, a crotalum (Ancient Greek: κρόταλον krotalon)[2] was a kind of clapper or castanet used in religious dances by groups in ancient Greece and elsewhere, including the Korybantes. According to the Greek mythology, the Korybantes (/ˌkɒrɪˈbæntiːz/; Greek: Κορύβαντες) were the armed and crested dancers who worshipped the Phrygian goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. They are also called the Kurbantes in Phrygia. The conventional English equivalent is “Corybants“. The Phrygians emerged from the mists of time roughly 2200 years ago in the area just west of Ankara, Turkey, a city they may have founded. Famous kings were Gordion (of the knot) and Midas (of the gold).

Found here:

A reconstruction of the clapper (Krotala), an ancient percussion instrument made from cane, shell, wood or metal. Usually held in each hand with thumbs and middle finger through the leather loops for stability, they were played much like Spanish castanets. Played to keep tempo, they usually accompanied choruses in festivals and theatre performances. (Museum of Ancient Greek Musical Instruments, Katakolon, Greece).
Illustration taken from the drawing of an ancient marble in Spon‘s Miscellanea,[1] representing one of the crotalistriae performing.

Kaşik (Spoons) – Turkey

Phrygia, home of the ancient Krotalum (above), was in what is now considered Central Turkey. [for more on the region’s history, etc, click]

The same region happens to be the center of modern Kaşik or spoon dancing. Like zills, Kaşiki are played while dancing, a pair in each hand.

Kaşik dances can have any form – circle, opposing lines, men only, women only, mixed groups, or, as in this case a bride & groom at a wedding.

The bride is using an abbreviated pair of spoons made specially for dancing

Not everyone need have spoons for it to be considered a spoon dance – it’s the rhythm that counts. Often a ‘spoon rhythm’ is programed into the keyboard – you can hear it here.


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