Also known as Montana Mama. (Moisés Vivanco - 3:25)
Recorded in 1952
|Review and Analysis of Montana 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!
|"In the quiet of dusk, after the day's work, Andean mothers croon their babies to sleep with this haunting lullaby. It expresses the hope and love every mother feels for her child." (Program notes, Chicago concert, 12/10/54)
Although the program notes are deliberately contrived to make the song universal, the music for this piece is really just a folk tune from the Andes that has been slickly commercialized. Nonetheless, it was a favorite with audiences and also with Yma, who resuscitated it as late as 1997, for appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
The musicial genesis of the piece is complex, derivative and confusing. Yma's "Montana," actually a gentle waltz, is a hodge-podge of themes taken from other songs. The main theme is identical to that of a song called "Mamallay" which can be found on a disc of authentic Andean music recorded by Angelica Harada. (Yma's song, "Mamallay," also on Legend of the Sun Virgin, bears no resemblance to Harada's.) Another theme in Yma's "Montana" is traditional and stems from the black heritage of the Coastal areas of Peru.
Yma's Montana is also different from one recorded by Sumac Koya. Koya's version, called "Montana Mia," a Melodia Andina, is a brilliant, pyrotechnical performance. Another of the prominent melodies in Yma's version can be heard in Wara Wara's recording of "En tu Dia" (On Your Birthday), a Peruvian Vals. Wara Wara's performance is a virtuostic display with an obbligato rising to E above high C, but aside from the one thematic fragment, has little to do with Yma's version.
"Montana" is a lyrical, smoothly flowing piece, and although the range Yma uses is limited, there are a number of unusual vocal timbres displayed: 3rd brace - intense, full and lyrical, 4th brace - hushed and intimate, 5th & 8th brace - crooned, almost hummed, 6th brace - intense sobbing effect.
This last became a favored effect of Yma's. After this recording, she frequently adopted this effect for many other songs on albums. At times in excess. Also, during the course of this song Yma hums with various tonal placements, each providing a different mood for the phrase being sung. The orchestral accompaniment, though simple, is colorful and does not detract from Yma's effects. For a song of this simplicity, the effects are surprisingly involved, but, fortunately, center on tonal and vibrato variations rather than overt, bizarre vocalism or pyrotechnical display.
An unreleased, instrumental take of this piece was released in 1997 on RevOla's Mambo!... and More. Although not crucial to the Sumacian legacy, it does give the listener an excellent opportunity to concentrate on the type of arrangement typically used to support her singing. It is remakably colorful for its use of stringed instruments and different bowings. On its own it is a fine, atmospheric piece of exotica writing - enjoyable even without Yma's voice supplying the main melody. Although Les Baxter is not credited on this recording - except on the very first releases, I detect certain Baxterian effects in this and other songs on the album that would support the opposite.