In memoriam Jitendra Pratap, eminent critic and artiste, will be missed as much for his knowledge and integrity as his gracious ways.
Eminent music critic and musician Jitendra Pratap who passed away early this month will be remembered not merely for his erudition and practical knowledge of Hindustani classical music but his willingness to share it unstintingly. Trained under two of the greatest musical names of the 20th Century, Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan and ‘Baba’ Alauddin Khan, he was adept at a number of instruments though best known for the sitar.
In the malnourished world of Indian art criticism, Jitendra Pratap’s was a name that spelt command, not merely because of his experience, having heard the greatest musicians of the country as they grew from youth to old age, but equally because of his in-depth knowledge of music making and instrumental techniques. This is why, in his music reviews that appeared in The Statesman, The Indian Express, The Pioneer and, in the last decade of his life, in The Hindu, the reader found a balanced view that placed a concert in perspective, as well as details of which technique or other musical aspect deserved praise or correction, and why.
Thus he played the role of the critic as an objective teacher. Not surprisingly, he had taught in a number of institutions, including the Rishi Valley School, Lawrence School Lovedale, and Lawrence School, Sanawar. His last assignment as a teacher was at the Delhi Public School, after which he took up writing in newspapers.
He also toured China with a delegation of artistes under the auspices of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, where his lecture-demonstration series was well received.
Among his last pieces for the Friday Review pages of The Hindu were articles reminiscing about the heady days after independence when All India Radio was coming into its own and he had a ringside view of some of the inevitable controversies and ego clashes that ensued. He also wrote with warmth and understanding about his first guru, Hafiz Ali Khan Saheb and his relationship with Alauddin Khan.
We will always remember with affection and gratitude Jitendra Pratapji’s impeccable English diction that resounded with the gentility of his times, his adherence to etiquette in an era of shortcuts and his unfaltering love for classical music that pushed him to continue writing on the subject even when his health was failing him.
I knew Jitendra Pratap for the last 65 years from Calcutta. He was very close to my guruji also (Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan). He was an ardent student of Ustad Alauddin Khan saab and one of the senior most performers of the sitar. Later he gave up performing due to ill health. I met him again in Delhi in 1960. He started a new career, as it were, as a music critic. He was very outspoken and as a result had to face harsh comments from musicians about whom he wrote very strongly. He was very forthright and never compromised. Another thing was he had very strong views on music, which could be debatable, since many would not agree with him about the applied part of a raga — say, emphasising a particular note in a raga. Everyone has his own views, principles and taleem. It became difficult for some of the younger musicians to digest his criticism. Even in later years when he was not moving around, he would write his observations. I met him when he was awarded the Chand Khan Memorial Award last year. He was a very good human being and musician with a good understanding of music and musicology.
There are very few critics who are artistes themselves, and Jitendra Pratapji was one such. He was a disciple of great ustads. He gave his opinion truthfully. If he thought one performed well, he would say so, and if not, he would say so. Some critics today, if the performer approaches them, are ready to shower praises. He on the other hand always stuck to the truth. I offer my homage to the departed soul.
Shujaat Husain Khan
He was educated and his writing was very clearly thought out. A lot of critics are not educated in English or in the word. They talk from an emotional perspective. But you could see he was talking of issues that anyone would like to be associated with. There was nothing personal. He had a very insight into the ragas and the presentation of ragas.
Shobha Deepak Singh
Bharatiya Kala Kendra
He spent a lifetime listening to music and writing about music. He and (late) Prakash Wadhera were the two critics whose reviews musicians would look forward to reading.