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Review, Analysis and Recordings Containing
Chuncho
Chuncho Monophonic Duophonic
Based on Birds from the Broadway musical Flahooley.  (Moisés Vivanco - 3:36)
Recorded in 1953  

Review and Analysis of Chuncho by Nicholas E. Limansky
From Yma Sumac - The Art Behind the Legend
used with permission - all rights reserved, © Nicholas E. Limansky
Read more on the Legacy of the Diva Web site!
Webmaster's note: the audio clip found above is a blend made from different parts of the song to show the range used. It is not found that way on any recordings.

"The music of the Incans was inspired, in greatest part, by teeming variety of mysterious sounds of nature about them.  And, as Incan maidens have done for centuries before her, Yma Sumac has wandered through forests of the upper Amazon, listening to their waking life, and calling to the creatures in imitative cries.  That is the music of Chuncho, the wild, unearthly sounds of monkeys, jackals, and especially a fantastic host of colorful and chattering birds.  Yma Sumac's singing is climaxed by her phenomenal 'double-voiced' trill." (Liner notes, 1953 pressing)

We now come to the epitome of Yma's imitative art.  Program music in its purest form, this piece allowed Yma to exploit her imitative abilities to their maximum; essentially it was her primer of vocal effects.  "Chuncho!" is one of the few pieces Yma recorded that was performed the same way in public, which partly accounts for its popularity with audiences. The only difference between her recorded and live versions was in their timings.  Concert versions of "Chuncho!" generally lasted between seven and eight minutes, instead of the three and one-half minutes of this recording.  The two live versions of "Chuncho!" I have heard (1953 and 1961) offer the same staggering singing as this recording but with the addition of extra flights of fancy.  This 1953 recording, however, represents the best of what was offered to audiences.  The Capitol editors should be commended for their work, it is a very successful condensation of material - giving the piece a tight structure and making it more intensely climactic.  On stage, "Chuncho!" was Yma's longest selection.

"Chuncho!" was an unadulterated and unapologetic tour de force that was always placed in the last set of Yma's programs.  It was Yma's habit to perform this "sounds of nature" number in a green velvet gown symbolizing the verdant greenery of jungle rain forrests.  During the song, the only light in the concert hall was a spotlight that shown on her face.  When the piece was over, the spotlight was quickly extinguished leaving the audience and stage in complete darkness.  Without fail, there was first stunned silence from the audience, then pandemonium.  The lighting effect was Moises' brilliant idea.  "Chuncho!" was, however, always controversial and critics were divided.  Some felt it to be a fascinating, ethnic display, others thought it contrived, vulgar, and smelling strongly of the freak show at a circus tent.

There is no melody in this piece to speak of but rather a collection (or exhibition) of imitative sounds couched in a loose musical framework over the strumming of a guitar and an occasional contribution from quena and percussion.

Let me offer the reader/listener some advice.  "Chuncho!" is pure program music and it should be listened to in the dark, without any distractions, to receive the full impact of Yma's stunning vocalism.  If listened to in this way I guarantee you a trip to a far-away land of wild beasts, insects, exotic birds and winds.  Here is the full range of Yma's battery of effects paraded before the listener in a clever, but simple, manner.  Here are growls, snarls, whispers, tongue-trills, register breaks, placement and vibrato changes, lip flutters, voiceless consonants, quarter-tones, flights of bird-like high staccati, deep, pitchless rumblings and myriad tonal shadings all of which go to create the most startling selection ever recorded.

Although the copywriters of Capitol call Yma's climax to "Chuncho!" her 'double-voiced trill,' it is actually a clever use of a register break in the area of the A above high C that was at Yma's disposal.  She rapidly oscillates this break over the interval of a third, sustaining it and gradually growing until she caps the phrase with an ascent to a note somewhere between the C, or C sharp above high C, and then descends to more normal areas of the voice.  It is the most brilliant effect Yma ever recorded.

"Chuncho!" is very powerful and justifiably well known.  The New York Times Guide to Listening Pleasure noted that Peruvians often used "special - purpose music," one form of which was Animal sounds employed as a hunting lure.  This was elegantly utilized by the fabulous but real Yma Sumac...".  The result was judged "superb."

Chuncho  is included on the following releases
Download-only version of Yma Sumac's first (Voice of the Xtabay) and third Inca Taqui albums, probably a bootleg as no EMI/Capital Records licensing information could be found. These are the same tracks that can be found on legitimate releases of Voice of the Xtabay. The exact country of origin is u . . . 2011 Australia
catalog no: AMR536
Another collection featuring tracks from Yma Sumac's various Capitol Records releases of the '50s. This release is available only as a download. 2010 United Kingdom
Download-only version of selections from Yma Sumac's Voice of the Xtabay, Legend of the Sun Virgin and Inca Taqui. probably a bootleg as no EMI/Capital Records licensing information could be found. These tracks are included on legitimate releases of Voice of the Xtabay and Legend of the Sun Virgin b . . . 2013 Australia
catalog no: ASIN: B002GM2RAQ
A download-only collection of recordings that includes several of Yma Sumac's early songs from South America along with her later material. Although the exact country of origin is vague and it seems to appear most often on sites in Germany, the record label seems to be located in the United Kingdom. . . . 2006 United Kingdom
catalog no: FAP 2-423
Volume 2, single EP, red label, not to be confused with the Double EP which contains two records comprising the entire album. 1953 United States
catalog no: EAP3-684
Part 3 of set from Norway has tracks from both Voice of the Xtabay (1950) and Inca Taqui (1953) so is actually a compilation rather than an original reissue. 1956 Norway
catalog no: FBF-423
Third album, gatefold double EP 1953 United States
catalog no: LAL 9023
10" LP pressing of Yma Sumac's third album, recorded in 1953.  There were few reissues because it was later paired with Voice of the Xtabay as the second side of the 12" LP format and on nearly all releases under that title.  Today it is generally considered a part of the Xtabay album. 1953 United States
catalog no: H-423
One of the few known releases from Columbia, it was apparently released in the U.S. printed sleeve. 1953 Columbia
catalog no: H-423
This is the first pressing of Yma Sumac's fourth album. 1953 United States
catalog no: L-423
Unusual South American pressing with wood grained borders printed with the cover art, rather than the 7" cover art being pasted over a standard bordered 10" sleeve. 1953 Argentina
catalog no: LZE 5005
Unusual Japanese release in gatefold sleeve. English labels and back liner notes; inner sleeve contains notes in Japanese. The Capitol logo is slightly different but otherwise the cover looks much like the more common U.S. release. 1953 Japan
catalog no: L-423
Unusual European pressing with woodgrained borders printed with the cover art, rather than the 7" cover art being pasted over a standard bordered 10" sleeve. 1953 France
catalog no: L-423
This is an early pressing of Yma Sumac's fourth album, and one of only a few reissues. 1954 United States
catalog no: LC-6624
U.K reissue of Yma Sumac's third album, recorded in 1953.  Features unusual painted cover art in the same style as the original photograph.  Because of the detail, very likely it was a painted over copy of the original photo and then reprinted onto the cover.  Painted cover art seems typical of t . . . 1955 United Kingdom
catalog no: OLP-1
Reissue of third album with different cover art, featuring a still from the 1954 film, Secret of the Incas.  Mfg. by Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co, Ltd.  Back cover has only track listing for this and two other albums in the series - no liner notes. 1956 Japan
catalog no: UV093
Recent 10" LP release of Yma's third album with the original eight tracks. 2003 Italy
catalog no: LAL 9023
Boxed demonstration LP with booklet describing the recording and manufacturing process with text about each artist 1955 United States
catalog no: D-006465
Vinyl compilation and one of the few known Yma Sumac releases from Russia, mostly of Inca Taqui tracks in unusual 8" EP format.  There are at least two releases with different sleeve and label designs. 1961 Russia
catalog no: D-006465/6
Another variation of this title, possibly a reissue of one of the earlier Russian 8" LPs.  From Leningrad, pre-Melodiya. 1961 Russia
catalog no: 5289-56
Vinyl compilation and one of the few known Yma Sumac releases from Russia, mostly of Inca Taqui tracks in unusual 8" EP format.  There are at least two releases with different sleeve and label designs. 1961 Russia
catalog no: 2 C 054-80 293
12" LP compilation from France, has small color cover photo from Mambo photo session.  This was volume 10 in a series of albums by popular artists. 1976 France
catalog no: W-684
This is the first 12" LP reissue of Yma Sumac's phenominal 1950 premier album and includes all the tracks from her third album, Inca Taqui to fill the larger capacity of the 12" LP format. 1955 United States
catalog no: 5C 038-85488 (T-684)
LP containing sixteen tracks from Voice of the Xtabay (1950) and Inca Taqui (1953) from Holland. Similar in most repects to the U.S. releases except in catalog number and logo details. It was released on the EMI Records Holland sub-label. Inner sleeve features an artist rendering of the Capitol Reco . . . 1956 Netherlands
catalog no: W-684
Reissue of first album, B/W back cover photo, this is a later pressing without the inset of the Inca Taqui cover art that graced the original release in this format.  Although not the very first, this is one of the earlier 12" LP releases and shares the catalog number with original 12" pr . . . 1963 United States
catalog no: DW 684
Reissue of first album, Duophonic simulated stereo, includes Inca Taqui tracks 1963 United States
catalog no: CO 553
Unusual World Record Club release with plain cover art 1963 New Zealand
catalog no: DW-684
Duophonic (simulated stereo) LP from Canada is virtually identical to U.S. pressings other than the tiny Made in Canada notations on the sleeve and disk label. 1963 Canada
catalog no: SLEM-323
One of the few known pressings from Mexico, this 12" LP is in the simulated stereo Duophonic format. 1972 México
catalog no: SUA 14 729
Supraphon version with plain back (track listing only) and no cover title.  This album is basically a reissue of Voice of the Xtabay but with one song less on each side. 1965 Czech Republic
catalog no: DV 6150
Gramophon record club version with cover title and liner notes. This album is basically a reissue of Voice of the Xtabay but with one song less on each side. 1965 Czech Republic
Vinyl releases seem to be the trend now as this recent double LP indicates. This time it is a reissue from a compilation CD rather than being a reissue of an original vinyl disk. 2005 United Kingdom
catalog no: 2711402146
Unusual Compact Disc collection from Greece, apparently available for only a single day as a promotional by a weekly newspaper. Packaged in a long DVD-type sleeve. 2008 Greece
catalog no: ASIN: B001P5MG6A
Collection from the United Kingdom features tracks ranging from Yma Sumac earliest material from 1943 to 1954 at the height of her career. Includes tracks from Voice of the Xtabay (1950), Legend of the Sun Virgin (1952), Inca Taqui (1953) and Mambo! (1954) and also included are her two singles from . . . 2009 United Kingdom
catalog no: CD 31507
Another compilation featuring selections from Yma Sumac's first four Capitol Records albums. This release is part of the Entertainers of the World series. Although the country origin is not stated anywhere on the packaging inside or out, the publisher is located in Ireland. This release does not hav . . . 2009 Ireland
catalog no: CD 72 435-21 434-2-9
Compilation 2000 United States
catalog no: Promo
Compilation Promotional edition, Mfg. by Imperial Tape Company 2000 United States
catalog no: CDP-7-91 217-2
Reissue of first album, first CD reissue, includes Inca Taqui tracks 1987 United States
Promotional copy of 1996 Right Stuff CD reissue, includes Inca Taqui tracks 1996 United States
catalog no: 0777-7-91 217-2-4
Reissue of first album, second CD reissue, includes Inca Taqui tracks 1996 United States
catalog no: 8374292
EMI Rarities reissue of first album with Inca Taqui tracks and bonus track with original unedited cover art 1999 France
catalog no: CREVO 34 CD
Compilation with previously-unreleased material.  This is the original 1995 issue but a more recent version exists with different tracks. 1995 United Kingdom
catalog no: CREVO 34 CD
Reissue of compilation with previously-unreleased material. This reissue contains a slightly different track selection than the original 2001 United Kingdom
catalog no: 23351
76 Hits and Rarities from the goddess of Exotica. More details and track for this September 2012 collection coming soon. 2012 United Kingdom
catalog no: GSS 5482
This 3-CD set advertised as being from Holland but package and disk printing indicate it was made in Portugal. Released in March 2008 and contains 47 tracks, this boxed set contains three standard jewel cases all with the same cover art and no booklet or notes. The box cover is shown. 2008 Portugal
catalog no: 118734
Anthologie 1950-1959 Compact Disc set of Yma Sumac's containing all of Yma Sumac's 1950's Capitol Records original release catalog. Probably a bootleg as no EMI/Capital Records licensing information could be found. These tracks are included on legitimate releases of all the original albums. 2013 France
catalog no: BLUE102CD
Double CD collection features remastered tracks from the 1943 Argentina Session along with those from the Capitol Records years. 2005 United Kingdom
Yet another compilation CD with the title of Queen of Exotica making three with that title. This one, which is a 2-CD set, combines four of Yma Sumac's '50s albums. 2005 United Kingdom
catalog no: B00006IWIC
Two CD set containing the entire Mambo! and Ultimate Yma Sumac Collection CDs, probably as individual CDs in a slipsleeve. 2002 France
catalog no: vhs 0023
This musical extravaganza interspersed with comedy nonsense and no real storyline or plot has one song by Yma Sumac where she is seen strolling through the forest singing to the birds (yes, real ones - see photo) while lip-syncing to her 1953 Inca Taqui recording of Chuncho.  Directed by Tito D . . . 1958 México
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