Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yma Sumac, RIP

The incredible Yma Sumac, long one of my favorite artists in any medium, died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 86. She was a singer of such startlingly rare qualities that her voice barely seemed to be human. The alien diva in The Fifth Element was obviously inspired by her. They called her the Peruvian songbird and the Nightingale of the Andes, but to me she's La Xtabay.

Added later: I just found this note by the divine Camille Paglia, in her column on Salon:
On the culture front, I was startled to read of the death last week of Yma Sumac, the virtuoso five-octave Peruvian singer who seems like a legendary figure of the misty past. Sumac's 1950 debut album, "Voice of the Xtabay," made a tremendous impact on me as a child. My family attended her performance (with her company of 20 artists) at the Binghamton Theatre in what was probably 1951. I still have the yellowed clippings and program, which lists songs eerily mimicking the sound of the Andean winds and earthquakes. The cover image of "Voice of the Xtabay" with a glamorous Sumac in the pose of a prophesying priestess against a background of fierce sculptures and an erupting volcano, contains the entire pagan worldview and nature cult of what would become my first book, "Sexual Personae," published 40 years later. Thank you, Yma!
Wow, what a tribute. I feel vindicated. Thanks Camille!

No comments: