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HomeArt groupYma Sumac: Descendant of Atahualpa, Last Incan Emperor, 1950s

Yma Sumac: Descendant of Atahualpa, Last Incan Emperor, 1950s

A portrait of Yma Sumac, the stage name of Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo. She was a Peruvian soprano noted for her extraordinary vocal range, which spanned well over four octaves. Born on September 13, 1922, in Ichocán, Cajamarca, Peru, she rose to international fame in the 1950s, and her music was based on folkloric themes, stylized through a lens of exotica.

Claiming Incan Heritage

Sumac’s claim of being a descendant of Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor, played into the mystique and persona crafted during her rise to stardom. This assertion was part of her and her handlers’ efforts to create a unique identity that connected her artistry to the noble lineage of the ancient Incan empire, which had a rich tradition of music and culture. This narrative was embraced by the media and added an exotic and ancient lineage to her public persona, although it’s important to note that such claims are difficult to substantiate.

The return of Yma Sumac: label to showcase singer to new generation | Music | The Guardian

Musical Fusion and Cultural Impact

Sumac’s music was characterized by its fusion of traditional Andean music with Hollywood-style arrangement, which resonated with the exoticism favored in Western popular culture of the mid-20th century. Her elaborate costumes and performance style only added to the sense of otherworldliness and drama that surrounded her performances.

nhạc Yma Sumac - Salve Music

Artistry and Legacy

Despite the stage persona, Yma Sumac was a critically acclaimed artist, whose talents were undeniable. Her most famous album, “Voice of the Xtabay” (1950), launched her into the international spotlight, and she went on to release several more albums throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. She remains an iconic figure, celebrated not just for her vocal capabilities, but also for how her music and identity resonated with and reflected the cultural zeitgeist of her time.

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