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"Vocal Miracle", Peruvian born Singer Yma Sumac Dies In Los Angeles

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Author Topic: "Vocal Miracle", Peruvian born Singer Yma Sumac Dies In Los Angeles  (Read 3232 times)
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« on: November 03, 2008, 12:05:40 pm »


                                            Peruvian-born singer Yma Sumac dies in Los Angeles

Mon Nov 3, 2008
ABC News

Yma Sumac, the Peruvian-born soprano who wowed international audiences in the 1950s with her stunning vocal range and modern take on South American folk music, has died.

Sumac's friend and personal assistant Damon Devine says she died Saturday at an assisted-living home in Los Angeles after an eight-month bout with colon cancer.

The reclusive, raven-haired songstress had said she was born in 1927, but Devine says her birth certificate read 1922 and she was 86.

Dubbed the "Peruvian Songbird" and the "Nightingale of the Andes," Sumac's soaring, warbling voice — reported to span well over three octaves — was matched by her flamboyant outfits designed to make her look like Incan royalty.

Her first album, "Voice of the Xtabay" in 1950,
launched a decade of worldwide fame.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:16:06 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2008, 12:27:00 pm »


Yma Sumac (September 13, 1922 - November 1, 2008) was a noted soprano of Peruvian origin.

In the 1950s, she was one of the most famous proponents of exotica music, and became an international success based on the merits of her extreme vocal range, "well over three octaves",
which was commonly claimed to span four and even five octaves at its peak.

Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo

Now known as Yma Sumac, Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo was born on September 13, 1922
in Ichocán, Cajamarca,  Peru. Other dates mentioned in her various biographies range from 1921 to 1929. Some sources claim that she was not born in Ichocán, but in a nearby village or possibly in Lima, and that her family owned a ranch in Ichocán where she spent most of her early life.

Stories published in the 1950s claimed that she was an Incan princess directly descended from Atahualpa.

Del Castillo adopted the stage name of Imma Sumack (also spelled Ymma Sumack and Ima Sumack) before she
left South America to go to the U.S. The stage name was based on her mother's name which was derived from
Ima Shumaq, Quechua for "how beautiful!" although in interviews she claimed it meant "beautiful flower" or "beautiful girl".

Imma Sumack first appeared on radio in 1942, and married composer and bandleader Moisés Vivanco on June 6 the same year.

She recorded at least 20 tracks  of Peruvian folk songs in Argentina in 1943. These early recordings for the Odeon label featured Moisés Vivanco's group, Compañía Peruana de Arte, a group of 46 Indian dancers, singers and musicians. In 1946, Sumack and Vivanco moved to New York City, where they performed as the Inca Taky Trio, Sumack singing soprano, Vivanco on guitar and her cousin Cholita Rivero singing contralto and dancing.

Sumack bore a son, Charles, in 1949, and was signed by Capitol Records in 1950, at which time her stage name became Yma Sumac.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:21:38 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2008, 12:37:44 pm »


               With Walt Disney - 1947

                                                                 Y M A    S U M A C

During the 1950s, Yma Sumac produced a series of legendary lounge music recordings featuring Hollywood-style versions of Incan and South American folk songs, working with the likes of Les Baxter and Billy May. The combination of her extraordinary voice, exotic looks and stage personality made her
a hit with American audiences.

Sumac even appeared in a Broadway musical, Flahooley, in 1951, as a foreign princess who brings Aladdin's lamp to an American toy factory to have it repaired. The show's score was by Sammy Fain
and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, but Sumac's four numbers were the work of Vivanco. Capitol Records, Sumac's label, recorded the show.

Flahooley closed quickly but the recording continues as a cult classic, in part because it also marked
the Broadway debut of Barbara Cook.

During the height of Sumac's popularity, she appeared in the films Secret of the Incas (1954) and Omar Khayyam (1957). She became a U.S. citizen on July 22, 1955. In 1959, she popularized Jorge Bravo de Rueda's classic song "Vírgenes del Sol" on her Fuego del Ande LP.

In 1957, Sumac and Vivanco divorced, their dispute making news in Los Angeles.  They remarried that same year before divorcing again in 1965.

Apparently due to financial difficulties, Yma Sumac and the original Inca Taky Trio went on a world tour in 1961, which lasted for five years. They performed in 40 cities in the Soviet Union, and afterwards all over Europe, Asia and Latin America. Their performance in Bucharest, Romania was recorded as the album Recital, her only 'live in concert' record. Yma Sumac spent the rest of the 1960s performing sporadically.

In 1971, she released a rock album, called Miracles, and then returned to live in Peru.

She performed in concert from time to time during the 1970s in Peru and later in New York.

In the 1980s, she had a number of concerts both in the U.S. and abroad including at New York's The Ballroom in 1987 and several San Francisco shows at the Theatre on the Square among others. In 1987, she also recorded the song I Wonder from the Disney film Sleeping Beauty for Stay Awake, an album of songs from Disney movies, produced by Hal Willner. She sang Ataypura during a March 19, 1987 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, appearing alongside actor-comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Murray.

In 1989, she sang once again at The Ballroom in New York. In March 1990, she played the role of Heidi in Stephen Sondheim's Follies, in Long Beach, California, her first attempt at serious theater since Flahooley in 1951. She also gave several concerts in the summer of 1996 in San Francisco and Hollywood and two more in Montreal, Canada in July 1997 as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

In 1992, Günther Czernetsky directed a documentary titled Yma Sumac - Hollywood's Inkaprinzessin (Yma Sumac - Hollywood's Inca Princess). With the resurgence of lounge music in the late 1990s, Sumac's profile rose again when the song Ataypura was featured in the Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski. Her song Bo Mambo appeared in a commercial for Kahlua liquor, and was sampled for the
song Hands Up by the Black Eyed Peas. The song Gopher Mambo was used in the films Ordinary
Decent Criminal Dead Husbands, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The songs Goomba Boomba
and Malambo No. 1 appeared in Death to Smoochy.

On May 6, 2006, Sumac flew to Lima, where she was presented the Orden del Sol award by Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, and the Jorge Basadre medal by the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos.

Yma Sumac died on November 1, 2008 at the age of 86 in Los Angeles, California. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer in February the same year.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:25:15 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2008, 12:40:49 pm »



Yma Sumac recorded an extraordinarily wide vocal range of more than four octaves,
from B2 to C♯7 (approximately 123 to 2270 Hz).

She was able to sing notes in the low baritone register as well as notes above the range of
an ordinary soprano. Both low and high extremes can be heard in the song Chuncho
(The Forest Creatures) (1950).


At least 20 tracks of Peruvian folk songs in Argentina in 1943 for the Odeon Records label, with. Moisés Vivanco's group, Compañía Peruana de Arte—a group of 46 Indian dancers, singers and musicians. (Three additional tracks are instrumentals or feature other vocalists.)(10" 78rpm).

Voice of the Xtabay (1950), Capitol Records CD-244 (78rpm set)

Flahooley (1951), Capitol DF-284 (78rpm set)

Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Capitol DDN-299 (78rpm set)

Inca Taqui (1953), Capitol L-243 (10" LP)

Voice of the Xtabay & Inca Taqui, (1955) Capitol W-684 (both on one 12" LP)

Mambo! (1954), Capitol T-564 (10" LP)

Legend of the Jivaro (1957), Capitol T-770 (12" LP)

Fuego Del Ande (1959), Capitol T-1169 (Monophonic); ST 1169 (Stereo)
(mono and stereo versions were separate recordings) (12" LP)

Recital (1961), EDE-073 (12" LP) - Reissued on CD, ESP-DISK' 4029 (2006)
Miracles (1971), London XPS 608 (12" LP) - Reissued on CD as Yma Rocks! (1998), JOM-1027-2

I Wonder on Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, 1988
(one of Various Artists).

External links

Official Yma Sumac Site

Yma Sumac at

Excerpts from book on Yma Sumac

Brief review of Sumac at the Cotillion Room New York City, September 19, 1951

Chuncho (The Forest Creatures) YouTube video


Retrieved from ""
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:39:30 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2008, 12:58:14 pm »


It is with deep sadness, that we report that Yma Sumac passed away at 11 am on Saturday Nov 1st. 
It was peaceful.  Those closest to her were at  her side.
A very, very private funeral will be held  at an undisclosed location.  Per her and her closest relative's instructions, she will be interred in Hollywood, where she spent 60 years of her life. 
Her last year was spent surrounded by people who loved her and looked after her with the very best care possible.  It should be a consolation that she was always surrounded by flowers, your beautiful cards, photos of her glory days, and an extraordinary view of Los Angeles' west side.   Also, her personal assistant's two
little Chihuahua's, whom she loved dearly.
Although this news is written as "news" we are all devastated here.  Indeed, there was plenty of time
to prepare, but when that final moment comes, one finds they may not be at all prepared.
SO WE WILL NOT BE OVERWHELMED, please visit our new 'Guest Book' page and leave your messages there. That way we can all grieve together.


"That I made good music and made  happy, their hearts"  - 

Yma Sumac, when asked what she wanted to be remembered for.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:29:07 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2008, 01:09:35 pm »


Yma Sumac, a mystery unsolved even today, is the only singer known to
possess close to a staggering 5 octave voice. While less than a handful of
singers have managed to capture Sumac's high notes, none  have managed to
acquire those notes including Sumac's lowest registers.  More amazing, is
that Yma Sumac had NO formal training! It has been said she is unable to
read musical notes! How did this phenomenal lady with the beautiful face and
extraordinary voice come to be?

   Born on September 13, 1922 (official, finally, as I have held the actual birth
certificate in my hands) in the high mountains of Ichocan, Peru, little Zoila
Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri Del Castillo, had dreams of being a great singer. 
However, such a dream was deemed almost impossible in Peru and especially for
a "proper lady."  But the girl was unstoppable.  Around the age of  9 she could
often be seen high atop a mountain in the High Andes singing ancient
Peruvian folkloric songs, to a group of rocks, which she pretended was her
audience. Entranced by the beautiful birds that sang nearby, she began to
imitate them, by incorporating their high pitched sounds into her

    Her voice matured somewhat  by age 13 and local Peruvians took notice. 
Much to the unhappiness of her parents, she was invited to appear on
Argentinean radio. Soon enough South America was quite enchanted with this
amazing voice.  In 1943, she would record around 16 songs in Argentina
(most of which have been released on CD in the last decade).

Conductor Moises Vivanco met and later married the young lady, now
renamed Imma Sumack and along with a dancer (Cholita Rivero), formed a
group called "The Inka Taky Trio."  Together they performed old Peruvian
music precious to the Inca Indians of centuries earlier.
They had minor tours all over South America.

    But both Vivanco and Imma Sumack had bigger dreams.  After all, she is
believed to be a direct descendant of Atahualpa, Peru's last Incan emperor!
Sumac’s mother's maiden name was Atahualpa, the same as that of the last
ruler of the Incan civilization, Yma Sumac could be regarded as

"a princess royal and spiritual leader of the mountain people of Peru...
(occupying) a unique position in the Inca religion."

  The trio moved to New York and continued performing. Americans were not
prepared or particularly interested in the music, finding it a bit bizarre.
But many were enchanted with Sumack's lovely face and voice. One night in a
small New York club, a talent scout from Capitol Records was present. The
man apparently saw great potential in this young lady. He immediately signed
them to Capitol records a MAJOR American record label!

    However, changes would have to be made. ‘ Imma Sumack’ would be changed
once again, to 'Yma Sumac' a more glamorous spelling. The focus would be on
Yma, and Vivanco would be "the man behind the Diva.” The simple "twangy"
traditional Peruvian accompaniment would have to be incorporated into  large
and lush orchestral versions if it were to take on Universal appeal. This would be
a challenge, but one the Vivanco's could meet!  Now in her mid 20's Sumac's voice
had reached it's unparalleled peak, and her beauty intoxicating.  A now classic record,
'Voice of the Xtabay' was recorded in 1950 and sold over 100,000 copies
WITHOUT major publicity!

     After a massively successful concert at the Hollywood Bowl that same
year, Yma Sumac would become world famous and travel the globe and become a
vocal phenomenon. Sumac toured and recorded albums for the entire decade of the 50's,
appeared in at least 4 films, had worldwide fan clubs and was
eventually declared "the 8th wonder of the world."  Major movie stars and
opera singers were great fans of hers.  Some of her childhood movie idols
were now fans of hers!

     While Sumac and her husband remained true to the ancient Peruvian
language of Quechuan and Spanish, they occasionally ventured into Italian
arias and songs not originally intended for vocal interpretation. Sumac
performed Claire De Lune and The Magical Flute, astonishing critics and
audiences into 20 minute standing ovations on numerous occasions. No other
singer would have the vocal capabilities to make such arrangements possible.

    In the 1961 Yma Sumac was to do two weeks of concerts in Russia.
The demand for her was so great there, she stayed a staggering 6 months, and
performed for royalty, on many occasions. By tours end, she and husband Moises
Vivanco were more than ready for [their second and final] divorce.
    In the early 1970’s with the encouragement of a few fans, Yma Sumac recorded a complete album of psychedelic music, titled ‘Miracles.’ Her now infamous temperament dominated the entire project and the album was quickly pulled from record stores everywhere, once “complications arose.”  This is one of the rarest of Yma Sumac memorabilia today, and is occasionally listed on Ebay.  It seems to be a hit among her younger fans and continues to grow in popularity, as of this writing.

    In the 1980's Sumac's career was rejuvenated by young fans all over the
world wanting to experience the phenomenon for themselves.  She had wildly successful sell-out tours from the mid-80’s into the 1990’s.  By the mid 90's, Sumac's popularity reached even greater heights as the new term "exotica" (in correlation with  what has come to be wincingly called "lounge" by today's standards) was coined and became a favorite genre among eclectic crowds of younger fans.
 This millennium has brought a handful of  surprise personal appearances, the highlight of which resulted in Yma Sumac  being awarded the Orden Del Sol of Peru in May of 2006. She traveled to accept the honor in person, and stayed two weeks, accepting other awards almost daily.
It may come as a surprise that a woman could become a legend with only 5
major albums! But with a voice like Yma Sumac's, all you have to do is listen
and you will know why.  Her albums have been reissued for over 40 years,
over and over, such is the demand of newer generations who discover this
almost supernatural voice.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:18:52 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2008, 01:32:17 pm »

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« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2008, 01:46:42 pm »



                                                "OMAR KHAYYAM"
                                                Movie with Cornel Wilde as Omar
« Last Edit: November 03, 2008, 01:50:47 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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