NOVEMBER 1, 2008


Born Zoila Augusta Chavarri del Castillo, September 13, 1922, in Ichocán, Cajamarca, Peru, Yma’s mother was a full-blooded Incan.  Lacking formal music training, she claimed “The creatures of the forest taught me how to sing.”  By 1946, she sang in Greenwich Village as “Imma Sumack” until Capitol Records made her stage name more exotic.  Yma broke through at the Hollywood Bowl followed by Carnegie Hall, flanked onstage by 2 miniature volcanoes.  Credited with a 4-octaves range, she claimed she could cover 5.  Sumac wore long, heavy braids; traditional costumes; gold & silver jewelry; and exotic makeup.  Her 1st American album, Voice of the Xtabay, sold 500,000 copies–No. 1 on Variety’s 1950 best-seller list.  Yma was in the Broadway musical Flahooley (1951), and movies, including Secret of the Incas (1954).  In the early 1960s, she toured the U.S.S.R.  Premier Khrushchev was a fan.  She also recorded a rock album, Miracles (1971), and anthology, Queen of Exotica (2005).  Yma died in Los Angeles, California.

Source:  Douglas Martin, "Yma Sumac, Vocalist of the Exotic, Dies at 86," The New York Times, 11/4/2008.  Retrieved 8/2/2020,
Photo:  Foto Brosio, 3/28/1954.  Public Domain.

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