Tuesday 4 November 2008

Peru's Andean Songbird

Yma Sumac, the suprano known as the Peruvian Songbird for her vast vocal range, has died at the age of 86.

Famed for her modern versions of South American folk music, Sumac died of colon cancer in Los Angeles, where she had lived for 60 years, an aide said.  Yma Sumac stunned audiences with her soaring, warbling voice which spanned more than four octaves.

With her costumes giving her the appearance of an Inca princess, she was a technicolour musical fantasy,  The singer played heavily on her Andean roots, claiming to be descended from the Inca Emperor Atahualpa.
And in the land of her birth, glowing press tributes have been paid to the only Peruvian to have been written into Hollywood's Walk of Fame.  Born Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo in Cajamarca, northern Peru, she changed her name to Yma Sumac - which means "How Pretty" in Peru's indigenous Quechua language.

She stunned audiences from Europe to Japan, starred in Broadway musicals and played exotic roles in several Hollywood films, including The Secret of the Inca alongside Charlton Heston.
Her fame faded in the 1960s, but was revived in the 1990s through its use in the cult Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski, which brought her music to new fans.

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