"Ancient Voices" is the main theme song of the reality television series, Survivor. It was used mainly for the opening credits for each episode, where it contained photographs or very short motion pictures of the castaways.
"Ancient Voices" was musically scored by American composer Russ Landau. Contrary to popular belief that the song was mere gibberish, its lyrics are actually based on a Russian folk song, Poidu Vyidu na Ulitsu (Пойду выйду на улицу, meaning "I'll go and get outside"). It may include local instruments, like the Aboriginals' didgeridoo, which was used in the theme song of Survivor: The Australian Outback, while renditions made for Survivor: Thailand and Survivor: China included oriental tones.
"Ancient Voices" has been used by the U.S. version of Survivor from its inception in 2000 until 2019, and it has been remixed every season to fit in with the location's culture. The opening credits have a montage of the survivors in their candid moments.
While shortened versions of "Ancient Voices" were used in the opening credits of the series, which lasted about a minute to a minute and ten seconds, each rendition has its own "extended version" that is available through iTunes and soundtracks released by CBS.
From Survivor: Micronesia, opening sequences were gradually shortened every week, with the eliminated contestant(s) getting cropped away from the credits. In later seasons, a short 3-5 second theme song was displayed at the beginning of each episode, without contestant pictures, or it was not shown at all. Since Survivor: Ghost Island, the opening sequence has been completely removed from the episodes.
Following Russ Landau's departure after Survivor: Blood vs. Water, previous renditions of the music were mashed-up for the opening sequences of later seasons.
Survivor: Island of the Idols was the first season to not have a rendition of "Ancient Voices", either aired on television or posted online. Survivor: Winners at War was initially stated to feature no rendition, but later received one in celebration of the season finale. Survivor 41 would be the second season to not have a rendition, and later seasons would not have one either. However, the score has been interpolated into episodic soundtracks.
List of Renditions
In 2001, composer Paul Winter filed an $800,000 lawsuit against Russ Landau and Survivor Executive Producer Mark Burnett for copyright infringement. Winter claimed that there are hints of his 1987 album Earthbeat that are in the Survivor theme music. Earthbeat was a collaboration between Winter's new age band and a traditional Russian group, the Dimitri Pokrovsky Singers. The result of the accusation is currently unknown.
- In 2001, "Ancient Voices" won a Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Main Title Theme Music".
- The rendition of "Ancient Voices" for the eighth season, Survivor: All-Stars, was an amalgam of the renditions of the show's first seven seasons.
- For the theme of Survivor: China, Landau commissioned an all-female Chinese choir in Beijing to translate the Poidu Vyidu na Ulitsu into Mandarin and added a Chinese folk song to the edit.
- The titles for Survivor: Nicaragua used the original version of the theme from Survivor: Borneo. Although there was a theme created for the season, it was dropped, though it remains available on iTunes.
- A clue on the January 21, 2013 episode of the game show Jeopardy! was asked "This TV show's theme song, Ancient Voices, varies every season to match the locale."
- All seasons of the Network Ten version of Australian Survivor use a variation of the Survivor: South Pacific theme.
- "Ancient Voices In China rev2 Pt 1". Russ Landau. January 13, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKBFfx-3YtY&list=PL0DEF52283D470BBD. Retrieved December 14, 2013.