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Music Eases Our Pain

In my opinion, humans are hardwired to respond to music emotionally. Music is a form of art that conveys emotion, sentiment and perception without using language. Music is very important to me – it helps me relax, it lets me be sad, and sometimes a really good song will even give me butterflies. It’s all my own personal experience when I listen to music (e.g. when I’m working out, home alone, in the car, or going to sleep). It must be important for others all around the world too, from my understanding, music has extreme cultural value for most countries. As I was watching Asim Abbasi’s Pakistani film Cake, there were a few scenes where music was used as a tool to ease pain, and as a form of dedication/devotion. The first example of where this occurred was when Abba (the father) was making a speech at his wedding anniversary dedicated to his beloved wife, who was in a coma and would most likely wouldn’t make it. He broke out into a beautiful, heartfelt song:

“After gaining, we have to lose something. After losing, we gain something. You win some, you lose some. Thats life. From a couple of moments we have to steal an entire lifetime. Life is nothing else but you and me.”

– Abba (Cake)
Film still from Cake – Abba sings as devotion to his beloved wife.

The scene was full of emotion as tears trickled down his face and he could no longer bring himself to keep singing. I thought in that moment watching this scene, I would never see something like this at any event I attend. The people I know just simply don’t break out into song in a vulnerable position like that – it doesn’t seem like the thing to do. It would be heartfelt, yes, but also a little weird.

Another scene where this occurs, is as the family all sing in unison to the mother as she lay on her deathbed. It seemed that the whole family knew the lyrics to the song which made me wonder if this was a song commonly used in times like this. Again, the scene is extremely painful and their singing was used to express their sadness.

“My darling. Please come and meet me. My spirit turns into a flame of fire. Come and quench my thirst. I’m dying to be hugged by you. Embrace me… Monica.”

– Cake
Film still from Cake – The whole family gather around the mother and sing song in unison

This scene had me in tears, and I think it was the song that did it. How wonderful, I thought, that song can be used as such a powerful tool even in times of strife and heartbreak. The lyrics are poetry, and the verses were repeated over and over again. After looking into this a little more, I found that Folk Cloud talks about a specific genre in Pakistan is called Qawwali – the voice of Divine power. It is used to get the audience and the artist (singer) closer to Allah by repeating the trance-like phrases until they get exhausted and only the form remains. Qawwali is primarily songs in Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Bangali and Punjabi. The poetry is implicitly understood to be spiritual in its meaning with theme of love, devotion and longing.

Perhaps in these scenes, it was a form of Qawwali as the mother was longed to return to life. I also wonder if these songs were used as a tool to help the suffering of the family, or if it was a devotion to the mother as she lay there, fragile.

Music eases pain for me, too. However if I am feeling sad, I’ll listening to music, not vocalise it. From what I’ve seen in this film, breaking into song is a normal thing to do to ease pain. I think this tradition is extremely powerful and enables people to really feel, and transfers good energy around them. So, music has a universal meaning and significance, however the way it is expressed and used differs from what I experience. Maybe next time I’m feeling a bit down, I’ll break out into song, too.


Folk Cloud 2020, ‘Traditional / folk music of Pakistan’, Folk Cloud, weblog post, viewed 20 August 2020, <>.


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