In her final year as Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Ali McGregor stars in a new show about 1950s Peruvian songbird Yma Sumac. Sumac, likened to historical operatic superstars such as Isabella Colbran, Maria Malibran, and Pauline Viardot, had a voice of great range, becoming famous for her exotica and mambo albums as well as her larger than life personality. Here McGregor talks about her personal journey with Sumac, as well as why the singer’s life is particularly relevant this year. 

Ali McGregor. Photo © Adelaide Cabaret Festival

Where did you first come across Yma Sumac?

In the late 90s, where there was a sort of swing music revival going on. Capra Records actually released a whole bunch of its back catalogue and got DJs to remix them, so there was a lot of electro lounge going about. Someone had recorded some for me, which is how I heard her voice. At the time I didn’t know if it was a human voice or an instrument or computer trickery because it was all mixed up in this remix. I remember being intrigued by it but because it was on a mini...