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Yma Sumac

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Ichocán, Cajamarca, Peru (1922 – 2008)

Yma Sumac (September 13, 1922 – November 1, 2008) was the stage name of a singer named Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo. When still a child in rural Peru, she attracted notice for her extraordinary voice, and joined the Compañía Peruana de Arte in the early 1940s.

Yma Súmac was born in Ichocán, Cajamarca, Peru. Other dates mentioned in her various biographies range from 1921 to 1929. Some sources claim that she was not born in Ichocán, but in a nearby village or possibly in Lima, and that her family owned a ranch in Ichocán where she spent most of her early life. Stories published in the 1950s claimed that she was an Incan princess directly descended from Atahualpa. A story claiming that she was actually born Amy Camus (Yma Sumac backwards) in Brooklyn or Canada was fabricated while she was performing in New York City in the early 1950s. She adopted the stage name of Imma Sumack (also spelled Ymma Sumack and Ima Sumack) in South America before she went to the U.S. The stage name was based on her mother’s name which was derived from Ima Shumaq, Quechua for “how beautiful!” although in interviews she claimed it meant “beautiful flower” or “beautiful girl”.

Imma Sumack first appeared on radio in 1942, and married composer and bandleader Moisés Vivanco on June 6 the same year. She recorded at least 23 tracks of Peruvian folk songs in Argentina in 1943 . These early recordings for the Odeon label featured Moisés Vivanco’s group, Compañía Peruana de Arte, a group of 46 Indian dancers singers and musicians.

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