Sunday, September 16, 2012


(Updated with YouTube Video of Yma Sumac)  9/18/12)

Music is long overdue here in a welcome change of pace from preoccupation with the political fervor which tends to consume our nation about now during a Presidential election year as it has on my blog.  

YMA SUMAC’S exotic singing first came to my attention after my brother returned home following WWll.  He heard her spectacular 4 ½ octave vocal range, so when Capitol Records issued her first 1950s album “Voice of the Xtabay” he was probably among the first one to purchase one.  Click here for a link to Yma Sumac’s official website.  

This Peruvian-born singer’s voice was untrained and she could not read music when discovered as a young girl in South America.  Every decade thereafter her spectacular singing voice was being appreciated around the world with recordings, concert performances and well-deserved awards in recognition of her natural talents.  Read her most interesting biography here

I’d been intending to compose a tribute to Miss Sumac since I began blogging so had searched on YouTube and saved links to some of the recorded music I faintly recalled hearing from so many years ago.  Only now am I finally sharing this magnificent vocal talent here, but sadly I’ve learned November 1st, 2008 Miss Sumac passed away at age 86 in Los Angeles, California. 

We can still enjoy recordings of her unique almost other-worldly sounding voice.
I’m listening to some of her recordings HERE as I write this which show her incredible vocal range sometimes said to reach 5 octaves at her peak....

“... 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) (1953). She was also able to sing in an eerie "double voice".

I’m reminded of being on a South American airline during the ‘50s returning to the U.S. that made an unscheduled stop in Lima, Peru.  I looked up to see the most beautiful and handsome tall elegant light brown smooth-as-marble skinned couple boarding our flight who were more exotic in appearance than I had ever seen before or have since.  I’ve always wondered who they were, and sometimes have since wondered if perhaps that might have been Miss Sumac. 

Enjoy some of her music in the link above that I listened to while writing this piece!

(I regret that the YouTube video I had originally planned to embed here as most illustrative of her voice to me is no longer available for freely sharing.)


  1. Thanks for the link. She has a wide range, almost sounding like 2 women singing instead of just one! I rarely listen to music anymore, preferring to read in silence. When I was studying music in NYC, however, I listened to music every day.

  2. Dear Joared, Wow! and Double Wow!! what a voice. I'd never before heard of this Peruvian vocalist, much less heard her sing. Thank you for introducing me to such a magnificent voice. Peace.

  3. I'd seen her name, of course, but wasn't acquainted with her story or most of her music. Incredible voice! Thanks for the background info and the music link.

  4. I am illiterate when it comes to music. Never heard of this gal. If she ever sings on PBS at Christmas, I might hear her. I know you are a music maven. Good for you. Dianne

    1. I doubt she'll ever be on PBS. I don't know of any programs they did with her anytime before she passed away in 2008.

  5. Thanks for reminding me of her. She was a sensation. When I get home from Peru I'll come Ba k here and look and listen. Right now dont have good enough internet. Connection. Peru is sensational!

  6. I remember first hearing her when I was a child and being fascinated by her voice. I don't think I appreciated how extraordinary it was. Thank you for the memory jog:-)

  7. Oh, the wonderful things you learn about from bloggers. Thanks, Joared.

  8. That voice is something else. I remembering hearing her name, but never really knew much about her or listened to her music. Kind of amazing really....thanks JoAnn. ~Joy

  9. Joared, you have brought back memories of music I heard in Germany as a teenager. I had long forgotten her, the name on your post reminded me instantly. She was very famous for a while in Europe.

  10. I remember her name and the fact that everyone said she had superb voice. I enjoyed the post. Thanks for your good wishes for my husband. They removed the tumors (malignant) and there is one more remaining for next week’s procedure.

  11. I purchased “Voice of the Xtabay” when it first came out. I still have it; but, it is so hard to maintain the old record platters/changers, that it's been a while since that album has been played. Ms Sumac had such an amazing voice.
    Cop Car

  12. I remember Yma Sumac! from high school days! will love playing the youtube on your post! Been many years since I heard her (would you believe 60?)

    Great post, Jo Ann!

  13. Thank you for this tribute. She was a great favorite of my late husband.