The Importance of Being Yma
The Xtabay is the most elusive of all women. You seek her in your flight of desire and think of her as beautiful as the morning sun touching the highest mountain peak. Her voice calls to you in every whisper of the wind. The lure of her unknown love becomes ever stronger, and a virgin who might have consumed your nights with tender caresses now seems less than the dry leaves of winter. For you follow the call of the Xtabay...though you walk alone through all your days. That's from the record jacket but was quoted in FATE magazine, which only demonstrates that Yma's fan base and the Lovecraft people were often found drinking in the same bars.
A few years later, at school, we would blast this album and the Singing Nun as a kind of sonic warfare (this would later become much more sophisticated), but then again we did a lot of dumb things like get really drunk and dance to the national anthem of Finland or whatever, all this weird junior united nations gone bad type stuff. And that's when I heard that Yma Sumac didn't really exist, she was just a Jewish girl from Brooklyn (the details always vary slightly) named Amy Camus, a failed opera singer who reversed her name for publicity. Since the "xtabay" is actually a Mayan legend (a long walk from Peru) and a cunning pig-latin anagram for Les "Baxter," god of exotica, there's some circumstantial evidence for this. But then, dear reader, who was "Moises Vivanco," the debonair Indiana Jones of bandleaders who (legend has it) called the princess down from the mountain and eventually married her (twice)? Was he from Brooklyn too? Another of the masks of Baxter?
To be honest, it doesn't interest me so much which side of the mirror Yma/amY came from as what's been on her mind since then. Why did she drop out of sight in America after making only a handful of records and a few movies? Did her "unusually constructed" mutant throat finally give out? Why did she do most of her work in the '60s behind the Iron Curtain? What were they aiming at, the impersonation of the gods or just a quick marketing hook? At what point did the act become real, if it wasn't always thus? At this point, the people who knew the secrets are dead or in relative seclusion -- the truth is slipping away and matters less and less to the world it leaves behind. At the end, all that will be left is those four- or five-octave recordings in some language that claims to be court Quechua. That amazing throat was real.
So much has been said about the girls over the years, but we have never found an answer. It didn't matter in the end how old they were, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling: still do not hear us calling them from out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.