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From Sun Ra to Snoop Dogg: Why Ancient Egypt is Trending

Snoop Dogg's latest video is set in a retro-futuristic Ancient Egypt/Hollywood mash up and with Katy Perry's Dark Horse reaching over a billion views on YouTube, we look into the music industry's obsession with our ancestors.

Ancient Egypt continues to inspire and shape musical cultures beyond its borders. Beginning as early as the late 50s, musicians, particularly African Americans, looked at Ancient Egypt as one of their ancestral roots, and used its mysterious mythology and iconic symbols to influence their artistic work. Since that time, Egyptian themed videos have continued to pop up every couple of years, but with the virality and controversy behind last year’s Katy Pary’s Dark Horse, it seems that Egyptian themed music videos have been resurrected by today’s biggest names in music proving that history repeats as often as trends.

The latest Egyptian inspired video making the rounds this week is Snoop Dogg's California Roll featuring Stevie wonder and Pharell. After watching the video we felt inspired to create a list showing how today’s musical superstars channel Ancient Egypt in an attempt to recycle this successful trend in music history.

Sun Ra Channels the Ancients and Gives Birth to the Trend

Sun Ra is arguably the pioneering mastermind who made a connection to Ancient Egypt to African America culture. The widely experimental American jazz musician ditched all earthly connections except for Egyptian mythology. He renamed himself Sun Ra and created his own cosmic philosophy and persona, claiming that he was from the ‘Angel Race’ that lived on Saturn. At the time, music videos didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop Sun Ra, who began producing experimental films like Space is the Place, which showcased his music while establishing himself as the pioneer of the Afrofuturism. His work quickly inspired a wave of artists channeling Ancient Egypt including John Coltrane, Earth Wind and Fire, Max Roach as well as a slew of others during that time period.

The Bangles Bring Ancient Egypt to the Mainstream

In the 80s, The Bangles brought to the world a song that would forever change the way the world thinks that Egyptians walk. Walk Like an Egyptian was the first time that Egypt would inspire pop music and would lead everyone to believe that either we dance or we walk like hieroglyphic images. The songs quickly became a number one song and a global sensation going viral, before viral was even thing. On the other side of the genre spectrum was the infamous Afrika Bambaataa, who continued to carry  Sun Ra’s Afrofuturism torch into experimental electro Hip Hop. 

King of Pop Becomes the King of Ancient Egypt Music Video

In the 90s, the now deceased King of Pop changed the music video game with his Egypt inspired Remember the Time music video. Starring Eddie Murphy as a pharaoh, this video used a variety of special effects that were ahead of its time, even for movies. This crazy nine-minute video was beyond over the top, however was so popular it helped the song climb to the top ten charts in nine different countries. Because of the high production and special effect costs, there were few who could imitate the iconic video and it would take over twenty years before Ancient Egypt would inspire a new wave of music videos.

History Repeats Itself Under Queen Katypatra's Rule

At the turn of the millennium there were few if any tracks that seemed inspired by Ancient Egypt. However, all that would change with Katy Perry’s video for Dark Horse, released on February 20th 2014. Transforming into Katypatra, the pop superstar caused quite a controversy when one dancer wore a necklace that said Allah and was punished in the video. The incident seemed to be an accident and was edited out, but helped this video go viral generating almost a billion hits, becoming one of the most watched videos of 2014. Looking to jump on her success, a slew of artists have followed her lead bringing a new wave of Ancient Egyptian inspired music videos: 

24 Jun 2014: FKA Twigs' Two Weeks

5 Jan 2015: Regal Degal's Pyramid Bricks

26 Mar 2015: Tink's Ratchet Commandments

 

20 May 2015: Snoop Dogg's California Roll ft Stevie Wonder & Pharell

 


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