A Hollywood intersection was dedicated Thursday as Yma Sumac Square in honor of the record-breaking Peruvian singer and one of the best-known performers of exotic music in the 1950s. nine days after the centenary of his birth.
Damon Devine, who was a Sumac representative, personal assistant, makeup artist and eventual caregiver for the last 11 years of her life, and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who introduced the motion to name the intersection, spoke at the ceremony between Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue.
“Yma Sumac was an exceptionally gifted pioneer for Latin Americans in entertainment,” said O’Farrell. “In addition to her artistic talents, Yma Sumac also lived and worked in Hollywood. Yma Sumac Square will serve not only as a tribute to a notable person, but as a landmark for the Peruvian and Latin American community, and a reminder that representation matters,” she added.
Sumac’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6445 Hollywood Blvd. is just east of the intersection. He received the star when the Walk of Fame was completed in 1961 with the first 1,558 stars.
“This is an extraordinary dedication that will bring much joy to all Yma Sumac fans visiting Hollywood,” said Devine.
“It will also introduce her to new ones. She would be very touched by this honor, as Hollywood was her home,” she added.
Yma Sumac was a Peruvian noted abroad for her extraordinary voice and is one of the two artists from Peru who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Born Zoila Emperatriz Chávarri Castillo on Sept. 13, 1922, in Callao, Peru, she graduated from high school in 1940 and sang at local festivals, according to her website. In 1942 she joined the Compañía Peruana de Arte, a musical group formed by Peruvian folk musician and composer Moisés Vivanco, whom she married that year.
She chose the name Imma Sumack for her radio debut, trying to avoid the wrath of her parents who disagreed that she was singing instead of studying.
Her parents discovered Imma Sumack during a live radio performance and were not happy but the support of other family members and the public finally convinced her parents that her destiny was to become a singer.
A 1949 performance at the Blue Angel nightclub in New York City was witnessed by a Capitol Records talent agent who was in the audience to see another act. They met backstage and he asked her to make some demo tapes.
She moved to Hollywood in 1950, changed her stage name to Yma Sumac, and signed to Capitol Records. Her first album for her label, “Voice of the Xtabay”, sold more than 1 million copies in its first year. It was one of the first recordings of exotica, the easy-listening style of music developed by musician-songwriter Les Baxter, who recorded the album.
Known for her unique five-octave vocal range (the typical trained singer has a range of about three octaves), Sumac recorded five more albums for Capitol through 1959 and performed around the world, including Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and more. and in the Soviet Union.
Sumac has sold more than 40 million records, the most by a Peruvian singer. He appeared in the 1950s movies “Secret of the Incas” and “Omar Khayyam,” in the 1951 Broadway musical “Flahooley,” and in a 1955 episode of the CBS variety series “Shower of Stars.”
Sumac sang on NBC’s late-night talk show “Late Night with David Letterman” in 1987 and continued to perform in concert into the 1990s. His music was used in the movie “The Big Lebowski” and the television series “Mad Men”.
Sumac died in 2008 at the age of 86.
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Hollywood corner dedicated in honor of Peruvian singer Yma Sumac