Divas defined: Black Music Archive explains singing styles

  • by Cornelius Washington
  • Tuesday June 20, 2023
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Milik Kashad of the Black Music Archive and a few of his informative videos.
Milik Kashad of the Black Music Archive and a few of his informative videos.

In the original definition of 'diva,' she is described as a classical opera singer, usually a soprano. In that culture we see her onstage swathed in precise period costumes and/or tasteful gowns with sweeping trains and coats performing in grand hallowed halls.

In the worlds of pop, soul, R&B, hip hop, and rap, the definition of a diva suggests complete worlds of difference. In the first world, the diva is usually white, in the other worlds the divas are mostly Black. They warble about love, triumph, dating, dancing, trauma and transcendence, usually over the neck of some man in particular or men in general, quite possibly the subtext of why so many divas have problems with men.

We all sing along with them, knowing every syllable, sigh and scream. But what we really are not aware of is that music is arguably America's biggest export, generating billions of dollars in revenue annually, and the LGBTQ community is the underpinning of it all.

From discovery, construction, acknowledgement, admiration and adoration, the quality, importance, impact, and longevity of a modern music diva's careers depend on us. The creation of whole genres of music, disco, house, and EDM are by and for us and the creation of the dance mix and remix are mostly made by iconic LGBTQ artists, most notably by the late Grammy winning Black gay DJ and music producer Frankie Knuckles.

However, there has never been a serious examination, exploration, or celebration of the technical abilities and gifts of divas from a queer point of view and certainly not by Black queer people, until now.

Award-winning multi-talent Milik Kashad of the Black Music Archive is the man who writes, edits, informs, and entertains with lush visuals (stills and videos) and most stunningly in his deep, dark, mellifluous voice narrates clips on the most elegant channel on YouTube concerning the qualities of the Black female voice.

Kashad reveals how range, harmonic qualities, breathing, aging, plastic surgery, weight loss, lifestyle and (shudder) weight gain affect the women we all in the community know on a first-name basis: Whitney, Aretha, Anita, Toni, Chaka, Mariah, and the most recently deceased Queen of Rock and Roll, Tina Turner.

Kashad also celebrates the unsung underrated outstanding divas like Melba Moore, Phyllis Hyman, Adeva, and Miki Howard. Mahalia Jackson, the Queen of Gospel and one of the most influential singers in the world, is given her due.

Groundbreaking Black opera singers Leona Mitchell, and the also recently departed diva Grace Bumbry, are given respect and reverence. Kashad's educational videos are outstanding, and are categorized with different themes: 'What is Supportive Singing?' 'What is Dynamic Singing?' 'What are Riffs and Runs?'

He also gives excellent opinions on topics such as 'Why Did Legendary Singers Smoke,' 'Can Big Voices Still Succeed in Music?' and one of my personal favorites, 'Is Pop Music Black Music?'

Kashad also serves irresistibly sly shade with 'Why are Singers Mean to People?' 'Why the New Girls Can't Sing' and 'Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Shade and Laughs.'

Also featured are wonderful interviews of several divas, most notably Bay Area native and Queen of Voice Martha Wash. He also does a truly lyrical chapter on Sylvester and the recent triumph of Alex Newell on Broadway.

Through their love and passion for music, Kashad and producer Matt Brown are creating work on par with MTV, VH1 and BET documentaries. The Black Music Archives are worthy of likes, shares, subscriptions and so much more.

As we celebrate the divas we will certainly dance to during Pride celebrations and in nightclubs, let's acknowledge and support Milik and Matt with recognition, celebration and most importantly luscious donations for being on the cutting edge of what the LGBTQ community can do on social media. Bravo, Milik and Matt.


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