Join 3,416 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


From Folklore to Exotica: Yma Sumac and the Performance of Inca Identity
August 31, 2013 10:10 PM   Subscribe

When the Andean exotica singer Yma Sumac became famous in the United States for her supposed Inca heritage and five-octave voice, her fellow Peruvians called her a sellout. UC Davis professor Zoila Mendoza, however, knew Yma Sumac as her mother’s childhood friend.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (18 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
(couldn't not add this snippet of two drag queens competitively lip-syncing to a bit of Yma Sumac's Malambo #1 - some spoilers for RuPaul's Drag Race Ssn 5 - carry on!)
posted by en forme de poire at 11:36 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The epilogue here is quite touching. Wish I could find footage of that lullaby she sang - would be really interesting to hear her take on more traditional material.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:46 PM on August 31, 2013


This is so interesting. Just a few weeks ago I watched Secret of the Incas, in which she parades out to perform a (seemingly endless) series of songs slotted in to pad out an otherwise forgettable movie.

It wasn't until I googled her that I figured out why that was, and how famous she was when the film was made, and apparently continues to be. I really had no idea.

You can watch the whole movie here if you are so curious (It's apparently on Netflix).

She doesn't turn up until mid-way through, but one of her numbers is in this slice.
posted by Mezentian at 12:23 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


(couldn't not add this snippet of two drag queens vimeo competitively lip-syncing to a bit of Yma Sumac's Malambo #1 - some spoilers for RuPaul's Drag Race Ssn 5 - carry on!)

Well I WAS watching Yma Sumac videos but now I'm watching drag queens on Youtube again. AS USUAL.

I am attempting to do both at the same time without injuring myself.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:23 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


You may need YouTube Doubler.
posted by Mezentian at 12:31 AM on September 1, 2013


MY GOD, MAN, HAVE YOU GONE MAD?
posted by louche mustachio at 12:35 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wish I could find footage of that lullaby she sang - would be really interesting to hear her take on more traditional material.


In this clip, she is about to sing it, but...
posted by louche mustachio at 12:47 AM on September 1, 2013


MetaFilter: Well I WAS watching Yma Sumac videos but now I'm watching drag queens on Youtube again. AS USUAL.
posted by hippybear at 12:54 AM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Here it is! Montana. This is from an interview with Dutch television, about that same time period. It's very beautiful
posted by louche mustachio at 12:56 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


She initially recorded the song in 1952, with much orchestration.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:02 AM on September 1, 2013


She has recorded other traditional songs as well. Here, she... um... does things with El Condor Pasa.


I WILL STOP NOW.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:19 AM on September 1, 2013


For a more recent look at migration from the Peruvian Andes to the coast (and the concomitant issues of ethnic/national identity and music), check out:

Turino, Thomas. 1993. Moving Away from Silence: Music of the Peruvian Altiplano and the Experience of Urban Migration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
posted by LMGM at 1:57 AM on September 1, 2013


Not to toot my own horn or anything, but (previously)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:09 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hunh! I had always assumed her Inca identity was entirely made up for publicity---that she was really just Amy Camus, a French singer who'd found a good gimmick. Interesting to learn there really was something there.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:18 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you for this. I only knew Yma Sumac from crossword puzzles, where her name turns up so often that once the clue actually read "singer beloved of crossword writers."
This is an unbelievable voice and a history I would not have expected to read.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:42 AM on September 1, 2013


(couldn't not add this snippet of two drag queens competitively lip-syncing to a bit of Yma Sumac's Malambo #1 - some spoilers for RuPaul's Drag Race Ssn 5 - carry on!)

That was the high point of the season, for me, not just that but the judging bit afterwards. Worth the wait.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:58 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Long, long ago, my drag mother, Ms. Toccata Anne Fugue, and I drove down to Northern Virginia to see Sumac at the Birchmere. We stopped for pizza first and my damn front tooth crown snapped off in a piece of pizza, but I pocketed the tooth and contented myself with the thought that I would finally be seeing one of my childhood heroines despite having a Hee Haw-grade jagged smile…and we arrived right on time at the front door of the theater to find a sign that Ms. Sumac was ill and the concert was canceled.

The drive home was one of the most sullen and defeated drives I have ever made.

For therapy, I pulled out my elegant album set of Voice of the Xtabay on 10" 78 records, we cranked up the Victrola, put a new porcupine quill needle in, drank ourselves senseless on a dusty bottle of green Chartreuse, and aggressively lip synched the whole damn set of records while Al—I mean Ms. Toccata Anne Fugue—flounced around wildly in all my marabou.

The woman was an inspiration not short of Eartha Kitt, Ethel Smith, or Mrs. Miller.

Sigh.
posted by sonascope at 10:17 AM on September 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy
posted by homunculus at 6:41 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older Several years ago, the American Heart Association ...  |  In 1978 President Jimmy Carter... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments