As the days march quickly toward the end of the month, we as a culture are compelled to unfurl the effect of Black Music and its tenaciousness stored in the belly of the hum. One can imagine what carried our ancestors through past atrocities or determine what is needed to help us travail the uncharted waters of the future. Still, music will be in the depth of our will and determination.
The 39th president, Jimmy Carter, instituted June as Black Music Month to commemorate the cultural, historical, and political contributions of Black composers, musicians, performers, singers, and writers to the musical landscape. Throughout history, Black Music and the Black people who have mastered its tenor have always presented music as a cultural necessity of being, from gospel, jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, funk, soul, house, disco, techno, jungle, to dubstep, grime, drum & bass, and hip-hop. Indiana has produced some of the greatest musical geniuses in the huddled corners of the place we call home. Janet Jackson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Freddie Hubbard, Wes Montgomery, and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, have all transformed how we listen to music and how the world studies Black Music.
My studies taught me that the world readily examines us as a culture, but I ask whether we study ourselves. The thought led to music genres that are not listed, like Classical and Opera, but the skill of Black artists has heavily impacted both genres. The latter made me look toward Indiana’s diamond, Soprano Angela Brown.
This is not an expose’ on Angela Brown, although her expertise and accomplishments merit a feature, but rather a deep dive into Opera as a genre and Black people’s place in it. Before we conversed for the podcast, I sat in on her Masterclass. The class was full of vibrant artists ready to glean, and she leaned heavily into breathing and performance techniques that immediately impacted the sound and depth of each artist.
During the podcast, I asked about her journey to Opera and being Black within the social construct of the genre. For the latter, she responded, “Opera is the most diverse genre.” The sentiment gave causation to wonder because it was unexpected. I was eager to learn more; she delineated plots and themes and then stated the race of each, starting with “Porgy and Bess, Black” and ending with “Carmen, Latina.” We strolled into a diatribe about masterfully skilled people of color in the genre and rested on Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, aptly known as Sissieretta Jones. Although there are no sound or visual recordings of Sissieretta Jones, her contributions to Opera and her panache are thoroughly documented. Sissieretta Jones’s voice matched her accomplishments and swagger. Jones told you without telling you she was the best (picture the Jay Z of her time—an assessment I am not proud of since Jones was compared to others most of her career).
Brown illustrated an often-missed observation in Opera, “the work is diverse; the audience is the antithesis.” When questioned why? We delved into the idea of diversity. Brown reminds us as a culture to diversify our palette; add a stroke of sunshine to the image. As we relish the text and texture of ourselves, Brown asks us to lean in and explore Opera because it is ours too. She has the perfect show to help us, “Opera, from a Sistahs Point of View.”
Opera may or may not be an acquired taste; either way, when experienced, you are more enriched for doing so, and that is the purpose of our music, enlightening your being while expanding your Tall Vowels. A Celebration of Black Music. By LaTasha Boyd Jones pn Tasha Jones
range of motion. I hope you celebrate Black Music every day, not just in June. For more information surround Angela Brown, please visit www.angelambrown.com
we L-shape our backs
hold notes with lifted checks
& sing with eggs in our mouths
we are guided by light
we anoint the room
we baptize ears
& wear confidence like parfum
our vowels are tall
our souls are stirred
Tasha Jones is an author, poet, educator, researcher, and Ph.D.(c). She is the Reginald L. Jones Fellow and is currently completing a manuscript entitled PYRAMIDS. PLANTATIONS. PROJECTS.
PENITENTIARIES. All social media @iamtashajones.