Music is an intricate art of sound that enables the expression of ideas, emotions, and thoughts by combining the key elements of rhythm, melody, and harmony. It has the power and the ability to stimulate our bodily reactions as well as positively influence our mental health.
Through this post, I share a journey of a family whose 3 generations have immensely contributed to the promotion of music. Even the famous Beatles group recognized their talent and the post below will explore some of these interesting interactions.
Sardar Pratap Singh was a famous tabla player in Kabul, Afghanistan. The family later (around 1883) moved to Lahore and here they set-up a music store in the bustling Anarkali Bazaar. 1940s was a watershed moment in our history and the period saw massive migration of people between India and Pakistan. The family moved to Mussoorie before the partition and set up a music store (by the name of TE Bevan’s at Mussoorie). The shop was located close to the library area of the town. Eventually, Sardar Gurudial Singh (son of Sardar Pratap Singh) moved to Dehradun in 1949 and since then Pratap Music House and the people behind it have been contributing in their own unique ways to spread the magic of music.
Pratap Music House is now being run by the 3rd generation of the family (grand-sons and grand-daughter of Sardar Pratap Singh). They are Ajit Singh ji (unfortunately he passed away in 2021), Amrik Singh Ji and Mrs. Brijpal Kaur. They are all legends in their own unique ways.
Ajit Singh was one of those rare gems skilled at playing the Vichitra Veena Instrument. He was passionate about music and as told by his sister – always encouraged people to learn music. He even taught music at the renouned Doon School and at Welham Girls. Even the Beatles group knew him well and they even visited Pratap Music House in 1968, the year they spent in Rishikesh working on their superhit ‘The White Album Project’.
George Harrison and John Lennon (from the famous Beatles) were strolling in Dehradun, trying to find a music store and that’s when they stumbled upon Pratap Music House at Astley Hall. John Lennon got his guitar repaired by Ajit Singh whereas George Harrison (who had a keen interest in Indian Instruments) took cognizance of the variety offered by the store. George requested Ajit Singh to prepare a “Dilruba” instrument to be gifted to his then wife (Pattie Boyd) in Rishikesh. Ajit Singh visited the Beatles at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh to personally hand over the instrument to George and Pattie.
Cut to today, Pratap Music House still stands tall at the same place and with Mrs. Brijpal (Ajit Singh’s younger sister) at the helm of the store’s affairs. She herself is trained in classical dancing and has taught for several years at Maharani Gayatri Devi School in Jaipur. She has also taught classical Dance at the famous Woodstock school in Mussoorie as well as to the students at a blind school in Dehradun. Her trained students at this school in Dehradun have even performed at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. Amrik Singh, the other brother, runs a music store by the name of ‘House of Ragas’ in Toronto (Canada). He is a renowned Piano player.
As I watch the many instruments displayed across the store, I realize that the traditional (manual) instruments are giving way to the more advanced electronic ones. While this worries me to an extent and makes me question as to how many (in the future) would really know how to skillfully play the Vichitra Veena or the Dilruba, but what makes me happy is that the change is still making way for the newer generation to embrace music.
Pratap Music House has been here for the last 70+ years. The building is in decrepit condition, in-fact the whole of Astley Hall is increasingly losing its sheen and the admiration it received in those days. Astley Hall is now a bustling market full of traffic and noise and the heritage buildings are now making way for the new and fancy stores of the contemporary world.
For all the changes Dehradun or Astley Hall has seen, Pratap Music House has withstood all of it for 7 decades. And I just truly hope that the legacy of Pratap Music House continues to motivate the generations to come.
Great SJ…very informative blog
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Thanks for sharing the story, reminds me of the days we had in Doon. I know I have visited the store a couple of times. Feeling nostalgic.
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