Music & Dance
The Musical Instruments of Ancient Egypt
A wide variety of musical instruments were played. Some of these instruments included ivory and bone clappers, harps and lutes, and percussion instruments such as drums, sistra, cymbals and the like.
There are four basic types of musical instruments in Ancient Egypt. These are: idiophones, this includes clappers, sistra, cymbals and bells. These instruments were particularly associated with religious worship and the music used in these rites and ceremonies.
Membranaphones, these instruments included tambourines, which were usually played at banquets, social gatherings and the like, as well as drums which were used in both military processions and in religious functions.
Aerophones include the flute, double clarinets, double oboes, trumpets and bugles. The latter were mostly used in connection with the army and military processionals. The earliest example of aerophones is the reed flute.
Chordophones consisted of three types: the harp, which was an indigenous Egyptian instrument, the lute and the lyre, which were imported from the Asiatic invaders.
Professional dancers and musicians entertained at social events, and traveling troupes gave performances in public squares of great cities such as Waset (Thebes) and Alexandria.
David, A. Rosalie "The Egyptian Kingdoms"
The first great culture to infuse its entire society with the magic of music and dance was that of Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians enjoyed life to its fullest and no celebration in Ancient Egypt would have been complete without music and dancing. At parties, singers and dancers performed to the music of harps, lutes, drums, flutes, cymbals, clappers and tambourines. During festivals, crowds chanted and clapped, carried along by the vibrant rhythm of Egyptian orchestras, while dancers performed amazing feats, leaping twirling and bending their bodies in time with the music.
Most of Egyptian secular and religious life was marked by the performance of music and dance. This important aspect of daily life of the Egyptians is depicted as early as the Pre-Dynastic periods. Ceremonial palettes and stone vessels indicate the importance that music had even in the earliest of periods. The importance of music in daily life in Ancient Egypt is underscored by the large number of musical instruments found in museum collections around the world.
In many banqueting scenes found within the tombs of the Ancient Egyptians, the banquets appear to be more secular. Shown in these scenes are an idealized rather than any actual event. The basic components of these scenes changed very little throughout Egypt's history, until the New Kingdom. Around the 18th Dynasty, there is a marked change of character, in the song, dance and the overall "feel" of these scenes. At this time we see a marked sense of erotic significance. Lotus flowers, mandrakes, wigs and unguent cones, as well as men and women clothed in semi-transparent garments and the gestures of the banquet participants. Music, love and sensuality go hand in hand in most civilizations, ancient as well as modern, and in different spheres. Overall music is a major component of life, an important piece of both secular and religious life.
Probably the best indication of the Ancient Egyptian's enjoyment and value of music and dance is a satirical papyrus wherein an ass is playing a large harp, a lion with a lyre, a crocodile with a lute, and a monkey with a double oboe.
Dance in Ancient Egypt