New Year fun: my top five Egyptology songs

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top5songsIt's New Year, so time for a bit of fun, methinks! Egyptology pops up in modern culture in all manner of ways, such as movies, architecture, fashion and music. Here, I've chosen to honour Egyptology in our musical cultures, so I've put together my top five Egyptology songs; keep reading to find out what they are.

 

Do you have a favourite Egyptology song? If so, pop it in the comments, and, if not already listed here, I'll see if I can add it to my YouTube channel.

 

Anyway, however you're choosing (or chose) to see in the New Year - or not (I'll be staying in with the other half and the children ... rock 'n' roll, baby!) - I hope you have/had a wonderful time, and maybe find a few minutes to play some of these gems.

 

And I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2014, and I hope to spend some more time with you there.

 

Enjoy!

5. The Fiery Furnaces, 'My Egyptian Grammar'

I couldn't remember the 15 minutes before.

A white-haired half Samoan girl from Darwin

Gave me a ride, it seems; she let me the car in.

But what it was she said, I couldn't say.

Now, that clearly didn't happen. I consulted my Egyptian Grammar.

On p. 333 was the hieroglyph for motorcycle helmet.

I combined this with a leather-back's shell as I was I felt instructed.

I Xeroxed it and posted it down by the bike lock-ups at the Oriental Institute.

 

The Fiery Furnaces are, for the most part, a brother-and-sister duo, who were releasing albums for most of the first decade of this century.

 

My Egyptian Grammar featured on their sixth album, Widow City. This song is right up there for its fun factor and is particularly reminiscent for those of us who've spent hours with our heads buried in Egyptian language and grammar books. I like the reference to the Oriental Institute too.

 

4. Blue Murder, 'Valley of the Kings'

In a distant place in time a pharaoh wandered

In his mind he could see a kingdom

With this king they could not reason

Enslaved in the wish and the dream of a man who's planned their destiny

There is no way out, there can be no doubt

All he wants is his dream fulfilled and until the day

When the kingdom's built

There is no way out, there can be no doubt

 

Pompous, comically dramatic, perms that put Bon Jovi to shame and, I must admit, a guilty pleasure of mine.

 

Yes, it's confession time: I love a bit of 80s glam rock.

 

Blue Murder were formed by ex-Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes in the late 1980s and lasted only three albums.

 

The song itself is about a pharaoh 'building' the Valley of the Kings and the thousands of enslaved people forced into brutal labour to enable this tyrant to fulfill his wishes for a grand and treasure-filled tomb.

 

They've used a little ... ahem ... artistic licence with the details (hmmmm ...), but it's a fun song, and I love it!

3. World Party, 'Curse of the Mummy's Tomb'

Buried deep within the mountain,

In the Valley of the King,

There's a passage way that leads there,

Where the wind whistles and sings

Of a time so long forgotten,

But it seems like yesterday,

When the queen was in her palace,

And the king was on his way

To the bosom of his family.

To the holy golden womb.

What was that love?

That's the curse of the Mummy's tomb.

 

World Party, aka Karl Wallinger (the band was virtually a solo project), was founded in 1986 after Karl left The Waterboys, and continued to release albums through to the end of the 1990s. The music's best described as alternative rock, and you might be familiar with one of the other songs from the Egyptology album - She's the one - later made famous by one Robbie Williams.

 

The song itself seems to be about discovery and exploration, and the magic and mystery of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

 

2. Bangles, 'Walk Like an Egyptian'

All the old paintings on the tombs

They do the sand dance don't you know

If they move too quick (oh whey oh)

They're falling down like a domino

All the bazaar men by the Nile

They got the money on a bet

Gold crocodiles (oh whey oh)

They snap their teeth on your cigarette

 

OK, I'm probably as surprised as you are that this didn't make the top spot.

 

The all-female band was formed in 1981, and Walk Like an Egyptian was one of the singles taken from their 1986 album Different Light.

 

It's the eponymous Egyptiana song of a whole generation. Fun, jangly and just a little bit crunchy, I find it near-impossible to not tap my feet when this song plays. I've been a big fan of The Bangles ever since this song was in the charts, and it still never fails to put a spring in my step.

 

It was a tough decision to make as to whether this should've been Number One, and part of me still wonders if I made the right decision.

 

1. Josh Ritter, 'The Curse'

He opens his eyes

Falls in love at first sight

With the girl in the doorway

What beautiful lines

Heart full of life

After thousands of years, what a face to wake up to

He holds back a sigh

As she touches his arm

She dusts off the bed where 'til now he's been sleeping

Under mires of stone

The dry fig of his heart

Under scarab and bone

Starts back to its beating

 

Released on Josh's 2010 album, So Runs Away the World, this is, quite possibly, one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.

 

It's about an Egyptian mummy, brought back to life by an Egyptologist, and their ensuing love affair. Josh Ritter uses 3/4 time (think of a waltz) to bring a lilting, rhythmic feel to the song. It's atmospheric and more than a little haunting; I could listen to it over and over.

 

It's a song of love, of discovery, of loss, and, what we as Egyptophiles can only ever dream of doing: communing with a real ancient Egyptian ("He learns how to read from the papers that she is writing about him and he makes corrections").

 

The video itself is not 'official', but was created by puppeteer Liam Hurley and, in my humble opinion, really adds to the beauty of the song.

Well, there you go. Whilst I have an eclectic taste in music, and my top five is a bit of a mix, I hope there was something you enjoyed.

 

And, although they didn't make it to my top five, I think the following songs also deserve a mention:

  • Egypt, Kate Bush
  • Powerslave, Iron Maiden
  • Grand March from Verdi's Aida
  • O, Isis und Osiris from Mozart's The Magic Flute

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