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Classical Notes

R. I. P. Yma Sumac

Posted at 3:54 PM on November 5, 2008 by Rex Levang (4 Comments)

I know she wasn't a classical musician

But her name is one that classical fans tend to be aware of, and her passing may have been overshadowed by election coverage. So here's a link to an obituary for Yma Sumac, who died earlier this week.

The one story that many people know about her, or think they know about her, is that she wasn't really from Peru; she was from Brooklyn. And her real name wasn't Yma Sumac. It was Amy Camus--Yma Sumac, spelled backward!

Just where and when was she born in Brooklyn? And if she wanted to disguise her identity, why didn't she choose a less penetrable stage name? We were never told.

Well, it turns out that it was just a story, after all--as the world of Yma Sumac fandom and scholarship has documented.

Neat coincidence, though, and it fits neatly into the persona of mystery that she seemed to inhabit so easily.


Comments (4)

Oh! I can't say how this news saddens me! Ima Sumac--I don't care if she was Amy Camus or an Incan princess--she will always be a legend in my heart. For that voice, if nothing else. But that persona, too. Maybe it was a bit of a caricature, but as I came of age and got back in touch with my own pre-Columbian roots, it was lovely to see someone in this country play with that mythology, exoticisize it (for better or worse), and present it as something to be proud of. We’ve lost a real character, and an incredible voice. I know who I’ll build my altar to on el dia de los muertos next year.

Posted by Jacquie Fuller | November 6, 2008 7:34 PM


Gak! Some fan I am ... spelled her name wrong. I'm bereft, that's why!

Posted by Jacquie Fuller | November 6, 2008 7:36 PM


Yma Sumac was too good to be true. I wish there was a dvd on her but at least we have SECRET OF THE INCAS to savour for eternity.

Posted by JAMES BYRNE | November 7, 2008 7:43 AM


since i've seen her in secret of the incas i was fascinated her look,her voice and much later i've the chance to see her in the festival "printemps de bourges" first of may 1992 wether she was nearly seventy her appeal was intact she was really a true artist
not a curiosity to be exhibited in circus
she could have been one of the greatest opera singer what a loss for opera

Posted by jean marc bontemps | November 7, 2008 8:47 AM