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Egyptian Dances, Instrumentation, and Music

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As the centuries past by, the Egyptian trained themselves in art so that they could be employed at the temples or priestesses. At first it started with lower class women. While performing, the women would dance while the men played the instruments to please the ruler. Only low class would perform publicly, while the high class sat and watched. The instrumentation, music and dancing were used for entertainment, religious devotion, to reveal human sexuality, for earthly pleasures, and ceremonies.

When music was first introduced to the Egyptians, they believed that the instrumentation bore the Goddess Hathor; the goddess of music. Other than Hathor, many other Gods were seen on the walls of the temples with instruments such as the drum, or the menit. Egyptian instrumentation varied from strings, to trombones, to lutes, to percussionists. Other instruments that were used are lyres, and harps (Reshafim). The menit was a percussion instrument that was used by the goddess Hathor. As Hathor walked door to door, she would shake the menit inside of the household of the different families because she believed that it brought good health and peace to the households. The next most popular instrument was the Sistrum; which means to vibrate. The Sistrum was a y-shaped instrument that was mostly known to be made of wood, yet, sometimes metal and ceramic was also used. This was another instrument that was used by Hathor. This instrument represented the love someone had for Hathor (7 Original Instruments that have Originated in Ancient Egypt). In Egypt, the Old Kingdom was mostly known for their presence of a male soloist not the instrumentation while the New Kingdome was known for their extraordinary performers who loved the details that were put in all of their performances (Simmance).

Most dances that were performed in Egypt were for religious rituals, feasts, ceremonies or funeral ceremonies. Another reason people danced was for entertainment. The dances were known to be dramatic, religious, funeral, or war dance. The level of the dances was usually excessive. For example, today the dances would be similar to ballet and gymnastics that included splits, cartwheels, and backbend (Lichteim). In Egypt, the Old Kingdom was known to have dancers that were more formal, the Middle Kingdom’s dances would consist of stamping and leaping. The New Kingdom dancing was more graceful and fluid (Hays). The only way a man and a woman could dance was separated. Dancing together was not known in Egypt at this time. If a woman started to dance anyone would join in. In Egypt, today what is knowns as a professional dancer, there is known as chebejet. Chebejets were women or girls from royal harems. The women were selected from the servents of the ruler to perform at any sociable bouquets (Lichtheim). The only time a Chebejet would perform by herself is when the dance consisted of high flexibility skills, and extensive physical fitness. The dancers most have received prior training before performing the number. Most exotic dancers received most of the attractions because of Pipi; a god who was a child when he performed a dance that the Egyptians were more impressed by then his god powers (Lichtheim). When the Egyptians performed a ritual ceremony, the men would sing a hymn. As the hymn went on, it was joined by many different instruments, from percussion instruments to string instrument. The women would perform a dance consisting of back-bending or hair falling over their face. (Felgir). While the woman danced, she performed “Chiromancy” which is also known as a hand gesture that directed the musicians; today known as conducting (Edgbadson). This is what the Egyptians believed they had to do, to communicate with the gods (Felgir). During a funeral dance women and men would pair dance by holding each other’s hand (Hays). Most people that danced in publicity, were in the lower class. The highest class of Egypt did not dance in public because they believed that the clothing of the dancers was too inappropriate for them to wear in public. The clothing usually consisted of long skirts with wide tapes on shoulders that let the arms move freely while the women danced. The hair was included mostly of a massive ponytail. It was weighted down with either a disc or sphere. In the Middle Kingdome, the women wore short fizzy wigs, while in the New Kingdom women wore long wavy wigs. As the time passed, women started to add accessories in their hair, consisting of headbands with flower pedals down the sides. Other times women wore their natural hair in the performances, but the beauty was brought by the large necklaces, massive earrings or the clothing. Other times the ruler was impressed by the way the natural beauty of the woman and the way she danced at a gathering. (Felgr).

Singing was a key element to the Egyptians faiths and religion. They believed that the words they sang could be heard by the gods to make their lifestyle easier. The words that were sung by the Egyptian in the Hymns performed during a ritual ceremony were known to be prayers. This all started because of the god Bes. Today, he is known for his connections with after-life humans who he performed his performances to (Simmance). As the singing went on, it was often accompanied by hand clapping or even chanting. When the Egyptians performed banquets, they believed that the singers were the most important part. The banquet music was based of five minor pentatonic scales that contained no half-notes. As the time went on, they started to use the heptatonic scale. The ancient Egyptian music sounded like Coptic church music, and folk music. What made the music complete was it going to the temples. Most popular Egyptian musicians were found in two different parts of Egypt. They are found either in the temples or the markets streets of Egypt. As of festivals, Egypt is known to have one of the best musicians. The musicians; who are employed to play by the ruler, are known for their traditional music that is mostly performed at festivals. Today, the Egyptians try to keep their music to traditional music just like the ancient Egyptians did (The Guide of the Ancient Egyptians).

In my opinion, Egyptian music explained how the humankind felt. They celebrated death, love, happiness and many other things. The way they use instrumentation, dance and music is impressive. As they usage for these three-subjects changed, in my opinion, the human kind also changed. First, they started looking at instrumentation, music and dancing as jobs for survival, and then, used all of it for celebration, rituals, festivals and entertainment. As the centuries go by, the Egyptians themselves learn more about music and dancing. New dances are found as well as new music is made. Today, not just women, but men dance also. Women still play many different instruments and if many were to visit the temples of Egypt they would find different pictures showing the changes in heritage that Egyptian music and dancing has made on the human life.

The Egyptians are mostly known for their festival because of the dances and music that was performed by the men and women. At first music was used for an employment for money that was provided by the emperor, but then turned out to be used for festivals, rituals and entertainment. As I look at the way the Egyptians danced and used music to express themselves, they believe that music can be celebrated and used in many ways. One thing that I learned about the Egyptians is that the instrumentation, music and dancing were used for entertainment, religious devotion, to reveal human sexuality, for earthly pleasures, and ceremonies.

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Egyptian Dances, Instrumentation, and Music. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 3, 2022, from
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