Happy birthday Yma Sumac!


Yma Sumac (September 13, 1922 – November 1, 2008) was a Peruvian soprano who rose to international renown because of her considerable vocal range, which was said to be "well over four octaves." Sumac popularized exotica music, which was characterized by a tropical sound, often casually attributed to Oceania (Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Hawaii), although this attribution was largely imagined and popularized by Western culture.


Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo was born in 1922 in Callao, Peru, and according to some records, was descended from Incan royalty and was herself an Incan princess. Alternately, throughout the singer's life, a rumor persisted that Castillo was in fact a Brooklyn housewife named Amy Camus, who rose to fame with her name spelled backward.





Zoila adopted the stage name Imma Sumack, shortly before she left South America for the states, deriving a pseudonym from the Quechua phrase for "how beautiful." The singer first appeared on radio in 1942, and by 1950, she was signed to Capitol Records, then changing her name to Yma Sumac. She and husband Moisés Vivicano, a fellow musician and her bandleader, were married in 1942 and the couple moved to New York City to pursue their music careers.


Sumac became known as the "Nightingale of the Andes" and the "Peruvian Songbird," with a range that was sometimes said to span five octaves. Her first record for Capitol Records was Voice of the Xtabay, which became quite popular. She also recorded several tracks of lounge music inspired by South American folk songs, and later appeared on Broadway in Flahooley in 1951, as an exotic princess who brings Aladdin's lamp to an American toy factory.






In 1954, Sumac appeared in Secret of the Incas and then Omar Khayyam (1957). In the 1960s, her popularity waned and Sumac traveled the world with the Inka Taky Trio for five years, performing in 40 cities throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America. In Bucharest, Sumac recorded her album Recital, her only "live in concert" recording.

In 1971, Sumac released Miracles, a rock album. For the next several years, Sumac would give concerts in the United States and abroad, although she returned to live in Peru. In March 1987, Sumac appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, performing "Ataypura."



Other major performances include a televised concert during "Etoile Palace" in Paris, hosted by Frederic Mitterand. In 1990, Sumac played Heidi in Stephen Sondheim's production of Follies. In May 2006, Sumac flew to Lima and was presented the Orden de Sol award by Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo and the Jorge Basadre medal by the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.



Selected performances:








Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 13 September 2014
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