Yma Sumac

~ Person

Legal name: Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castill


Yma Sumac (/ˈmə ˈsmæk/; September 13, 1922, or September 10, 1923 – November 1, 2008), sometimes spelled Yma Súmac, was a Peruvian soprano. In the 1950s, she was one of the most famous proponents of exotica music.

Sumac became an international success based on her extreme vocal range, which was said to be "well over five octaves" at the peak of her singing career.

Sumac recorded an extraordinarily wide vocal range of 5 octaves, 3 notes and a semitone ranging from E2 to B7 (approximately 107 Hz to 3.7 kHz). In one live recording of "Chuncho", she sings a range of over four and a half octaves, from B2 to F7. She was able to sing notes in the low baritone register as well as notes above the range of an ordinary soprano and notes in the whistle register. Both low and high extremes can be heard in the song Chuncho (The Forest Creatures) (1953). She was also apparently able to sing in an eerie "double voice".

In 1954, classical composer Virgil Thomson described Sumac's voice as "very low and warm, very high and birdlike", noting that her range "is very close to five octaves, but is in no way inhuman or outlandish in sound". In 2012, audio recording restoration expert John H. Haley favorably compared Súmac's tone to opera singers Isabella Colbran, Maria Malibran, and Pauline Viardot. He described Súmac's voice as not having the "bright penetrating peal of a true coloratura soprano", but having in its place "an alluring sweet darkness...virtually unique in our time".

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1950 Voice of Xtabay Yma Sumac 1
1953 Inca Taqui Yma Sumac & Moises Vivanco 2
1954 Mambo! Yma Sumac 2
1957 Legend of the Jivaro Yma Sumac 1
1959 Fuego del Ande Yma Sumac 2
1971 Miracles Yma Sumac 7
1987 The Spell of Yma Sumac Yma Sumac 2
1994 Amor indio Yma Sumac 1
1996 Legend of the Sun Virgin Yma Sumac 1
1997 Mambo! and more Yma Sumac 5 2
1998 Yma Rocks! Yma Sumac 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1988 Voice of the Xtabay Yma Sumac 2
1995 Shou Condor Yma Sumac 1
1999 Voice of the Xtabay & Other Exotic Delights Yma Sumac 1
2000 The Ultimate Yma Sumac Collection Yma Sumac 4 1
2003 Voice of the Xtabay Yma Sumac 1
2003 Kon Tiki Yma Sumac 1
2005 Queen of Exotica Yma Sumac 1
2008 The Exotic Lure Of Yma Sumac 1
Queen of Exotica Yma Sumac 1

Album + Live

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1992 Live in Concert: 1961 Yma Sumac 1
2006 Recital Yma Sumac 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1952 Babalu / Wimoweh Yma Sumac 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1996 Sampler Exotica Yma Sumac 1

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