Malambo No. 1 Lyrics

Full Review
Updated 1/6/02 to correct 6-octave range to 4-to-5-octave range. (Though I know I read 6 somewhere!)
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When I was a young girl many, many years ago, there were lots of names of people and concepts and things I couldn't get adults to define or explain to me. When mom said, "Look it up in the encyclopedia," and I couldn't find an answer, I realized I had to wait until I wasn't dependent on the adults around me for information. Needless to say, many of these childish points of interest dissolved into mind dust.
Yma Sumac was a name that settled among that mind dust, and, about six years ago while perusing the lounge/exotica/easy listening section in a media superstore, I came across Yma Sumac's Mambo CD. I think her name stuck with me, because I found it interesting, and this CD of hers looked like it might be interesting, so I purchased it.

My virgin listening of it bordered on annoyance. I had expected lively Latin vocals, but got, instead, lively jungle animal vocals. Sometimes Yma would sing in a forced deep voice (what's the opposite of falsetto?) on up to a high C four or five octaves away, and sometimes she was doing her own peculiar Latin scat, complete with a**orted canine sounds. One minute she was Florence Henderson and the next minute she was James Brown. No, James Brown's Doberman. I was baffled and nearly didn't complete listening to the whole CD.
Time passed and I decided to play it again. Knowing what to expect this time, I kinda got into it. On a third playing, I was hooked and was listening to it all the time in the office as I worked. The appeal was partly the lively material and bouncy arrangements, but I have to admit it was mostly the bizarreness--I mean, uniqueness--of Yma's stylings and her shameless vocal m*********** that I most enjoyed.

It's difficult to differentiate one song from another, as they all employ many of the same stylings and musical stamps. Horns blare and drums hammer throughout and an adoring male chorus sometimes chimes in. Yma sings as low as she can go on up to a dizzying soprano finishes, while fixating on and repeating sounds and phrases over and over. Much of it is evocative of bodily functions. Gopher begins with a male vocalist sounding like he's going to blow chunks and Indian Carnival sounds like we're invading Yma's private moment on the can. In Malambo No. 1, la Sumac sounds like she has the hiccups throughout her lyrics before she breaks into a guttural "wow wow wow," only to be broken up by extravagant soprano scatting.

I've never heard a woman grunt, growl, and snarl lyrics like a tempermental beast, but Yma does just that in Goomba Boomba, as well as laugh, sigh, and hoot. And in Cha Cha Gitano, she finishes the song with a series of "Swaaaaah" sounds so snakelike that you can almost feel the venom coursing your veins. My favorite, hands down, is Five Bottle Mambo. Metal spoons clink off drinking glasses, and Yma totally chews up the scenery with her guttural, animalistic discharges. I'm sure her nose is running by the end of it.

From the web, I learned that Yma's life was just as interesting as her music. She had become the darling of the pop music intelligentsia during the early 50s, replete with a controversial background. Was she a bona fide Incan princess or a gal named Amy Camus from Brooklyn? Either way, there was no denying her powerful vocal gyrations, incredible range, and exotic look, and she established an avant garde US fan base.

As I understand it, Yma still records and makes personal appearances. Interestingly, Mambo was her least favorite album. Her other recordings are less upbeat and are more ethereal, other-worldly...downright new-agey. Not my cup of tea at all. I want the Yma that sings, "Bah bow b***a b***a b**, bah b***a b***a b**" as she does in Jungla. Hey, no one writes lyrics like that anymore.

Although I "spread the word about Yma" after first discovering her, I failed to meet anyone who had heard of her. And then a couple of years after purchasing Mambo, I watched the movie Wigstock and was pleased to see a drag queen lip-syncing one of the songs from this CD. After seeing that, my judgment about Yma was validated. If a drag queen loves Yma, I knew I was on to something really, really hot!
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Mambo! (1954)
Bo Mambo Taki Rari Gopher Chicken Talk Goomba Boomba Malambo No. 1 Five Bottles Mambo Indian Carnival Cha Cha Gitano Jungla Carnavalito Boliviano