Ancient Egypt for Kids
Music and Dance
Instruments: The ancient Egyptians loved music. They created many instruments that were easy play like bells, drums, rattles, chimes, tambourines, and clapping hands. They wanted to keep things simple so that everyone could participate. They also created instruments that took practice and skill like the flute, the guitar and the harp.
The flute was one of the first wind instruments in the world and the only wind instrument in ancient Egypt. Hollow reeds are common along the Nile. The flute probably started as a reed. Holes were added. You had a flute.
The guitar was a lute-like instrument. It didn't look much like today's guitars, but it had a sound box and a long neck with strings that stretched from the neck end down and across the sound box. Strings could be tightened and held to make many different sounds. This instrument took time to learn to play well.
Harps were started as hunting bows. In time, harps had 10-12 strings.
Singing: Music, including singing, was part of religious festivals, banquets, and general joy of the ancient Egyptian people.
Cult Singers and Temple Musicians: Music and dance was also used by temple priests. For much of ancient Egyptian history, cult singers and temple musicians were made up of both men and women, although temple men and women did not perform together. Later on, in the New Kingdom, the priesthood became exclusively male, but some priests were married. Their wives lived in the temple, and continued to be temple singers and dancers. The songs and dances performed by temple women remained more important than those done by the male priests.
Dance: The ancient Egyptian people also danced. Women danced with women and men with men. Dance could be very athletic and acrobatic with the inclusion of cartwheels, back-bends, and handstands. Some dances had certain steps; these were dances you could learn. Some dances were used exclusively for religious or funeral purposes. Muu-dancers, for example, were a specialized profession; they wore kilts and reed crowns and danced alongside a funeral procession. There are quite a few tomb paintings that show two female dancers dancing together. Dance was accompanied by music or by hand clapping to keep the rhythm.