Singer Yma Sumac Dies

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Peruvian singer Yma Sumac died Saturday at age 86. Sumac recorded an extraordinarily wide vocal range of more than four octaves; she could sing notes in the low baritone register as well as notes above the range of an ordinary soprano.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Yma Sumac is dead.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

But her voice lives on.

(Soundbite of Opera singing)

SIEGEL: Yma Sumac might have been 86 when she died.

(Soundbite of Opera singing)

NORRIS: Sumac probably was Peruvian born.

SIEGEL: Although, some claimed that she might have been a Jewish girl from Brooklyn named Amy Camus who wrote her name backward and claimed Incan ancestry.

NORRIS: One thing is certain, absolutely certain.

SIEGEL: She had an amazing vocal range.

(Soundbite of Opera singing)

NORRIS: Yma Sumac could bend notes from the low baritone register to above the range of a soprano.

(Soundbite of Opera singing)

SIEGEL: As the Peruvian songbird and the nightingale of the Andes, she swept onto the scene in the 1950s. She recorded traditional South American music and modern mambo numbers in her acoustically acrobatic style. Listen to the progression of Yma Sumac in this number called, "Jungla."

(Soundbite of song "Jungla")

SIEGEL: Now, stay with us because she's just getting started.

(Soundbite of song "Jungla")

NORRIS: A journey in octaves.

(Soundbite of song "Jungla")

NORRIS: Yma Sumac's origins were always shrouded in mystery. She changed her date of birth, her name, and she claims she was descended from an Incan emperor. It all doesn't matter now.

SIEGEL: On Saturday, in a Los Angeles nursing home, Yma Sumac died at the presumed age of 86, leaving the musical world a legacy that spans the scales.

(Soundbite of song "Jungla")

SIEGEL: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

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