Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Powerful Sumac Still Qualifies as a Diva

July 18, 1996|DON HECKMAN

Is Yma Sumac a diva? Consider this: At one moment in her performance at the House of Blues on Tuesday, the crowd started to get a bit rambunctious. The 68-year-old singer drew herself up imperiously and raised one regal hand for silence. The noise was stilled in an instant.

Sumac, in fact, was a diva in the '50s, well before pop singing stars were described as divas. Her four-octave range (some said it was even larger), her alleged descent from the ancient kings of Peru and her pop-kitsch recordings filled with vaguely tribal-sounding rhythms were the stuff of pure camp, then and now. But her audience at the House of Blues--like other listeners in her recently revived career--responded with an affectionate enthusiasm that transcended her image.

Dressed in a flowing high-priestess gown and sporting an enormous, flamboyant necklace, Sumac strode the stage with the clear feeling that she was in total control of the room. Visual impact aside, her voice is one of the most remarkable instruments in pop music. In the course of her hourlong set, she tossed in chirping bird calls, soaring operatic bel canto, scary-sounding shamanistic growls and small intimate whispers.

If the presentation was occasionally reminiscent of a '50s exotic lounge act, Sumac's divadom was nonetheless guaranteed, not only by her commanding presence and powerful sense of self but by her still-impressive musicality.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|