Monday, October 22, 2012

Los Indios

The Many Splendored Guitars of Los Indios Tabajaras (1965) was one of the fifteen or so records my parents had when I was a child. I remember this album as much for the cover as the music inside it -- two traditionally-(un)dressed Latin American "Indians" holding classical guitars to their chests.

Los Indios were a brother duo from north-eastern Brazil. According to my father, they were cannibals who came upon a downed plane full of dead musicians and, after eating their bodies, taught themselves how to play their instruments. In reality, however, these two probably had more in common with Ukrainian ex-pat Clarice Lispector (who was raised in Maceio) than the Yanomamo of yesterday's post.

Stories such as these were common at a time when anything out of the ordinary was amplified. Not because a gimmick was needed but because the idea of a musical conservatory accepting Indians was even more preposterous than that of autodidact cannibals.

But it worked the other way too. One example is Peruvian-born "exotica" singer Yma Sumac, whom many believed was actually a housewife from Brooklyn named Amy Camus (her stage name spelled backwards). Yma's story is the story of knowing better, which is to say knowing the lie but also what lies behind it -- even if what lies there is also untrue.

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