Songs occupy a prominent place among the intangible cultural heritage. Regardless of the genre or form songs may belong to, few cultural items can compare with their reach and evocative character. They can sway millions of people, provide succour to the suffering soul, and sometimes even transcend national boundaries.
Songs are also food for thought as they represent many key philosophical underpinnings of a culture.
Examples of deep philosophical insights can be found aplenty in Hindi film songs, and that may not be different in other languages and song forms across different cultures too. When Devsaheb jauntily croons “main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya, har
fikr ko dhuen mein udata chala gaya” (I remain committed to life, I continue to cast my worries aside; Hum Dono: 1961), is he not being a copybook exponent of pragmatism? The melodious number, “sansar se bhage phirte ho, bhagwan ko tum kya paoge” (How can you expect to reach God when you keep running away from the world He has created? Chitralekha: 1964) is profound in its grasp of existentialism.
Again, “hathon ki chand lakeeron ka, sab khel hai bas taqdeeron ka” (life plays itself out through destiny foretold in the few lines on our palms; Vidhata: 1982) is a brilliant exposition of fatalism and also its counterpoise, free will, in a dialectical format.
Therefore, songs are much more than unique expressions of an array of human emotions or palliatives that make our life bearable. For the many underlying philosophical themes that appear in them as leitmotivs, they must also get recognition as repositories of popular wisdom.
Songs also have an uncanny knack for engaging with the complex realities of life. They are a formidable cultural heritage to have. Awareness of this heritage is necessary if we are to preserve it and contribute to its growth. So, the next time we listen to a song, let us appreciate the rarefied intellectual experience it is capable of offering.