Before Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony led the Latin pop wave in the late ’90s, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez’s star was on the rise. But the Mexican-American singer/songwriter’s life was cut short at age 23 when she was murdered by an employee in 1995.
Over the past 21 years, Selena has become a legendary icon in the Latin community. On Saturday, April 16, the Queen of Tejano would have turned 45, and in celebration of her birthday, there’s a special concert at NYCB Theatre at Westbury featuring Genessa & the Selena Experience tribute band.
“I know her whole discography by heart,” says lead singer Genessa Escobar, 33, of Farmingdale. “She was one of my favorite artists, so this is a labor of love.”
SENTIMENTAL OVER SELENA
Escobar grew up watching Selena perform on the Univision show “Sábado Gigante” with her family.
“I loved how her personality came through her vocals,” says Escobar, who also performs in the ’80s cover band Decadia. “She always sounded happy.”
Because of Selena’s dark passing, Escobar remains sensitive in her portrayal.
“I’m as respectful as I can be, and I tread lightly because her core fan base is very protective of her,” she says. “We bring back her personality, fashion, hair, makeup and dance moves. It’s a celebration of her legacy.”
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HOW IT BEGAN
The band was put together by bassist/musical director Lenny Rocillo, who was touched by the 1997 film “Selena,” starring Lopez as the singer.
“It was such a tragedy what happened to Selena,” says Rocillo, 50, of Seaford. “Genessa is the right girl for the part. She has the charisma to pull it off.”
Their first gig was at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Manhattan on a cold January night earlier this year to a packed house of the Selena faithful.
“The crowd was getting emotional and so was I. Her music bonded all of us in the room,” Escobar says. “When we performed her ballad, ‘No Me Queda Mas,’ (‘I Have Nothing Left’) people started bawling.”
Songs like “Como la Flor,” “Amor Prohibido,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “Dreaming of You” and “I Could Fall in Love” made up the set along with Selena’s famous disco medley.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Rocillo says. “But once I saw people dancing and singing along, I knew we were on to something.”
The Westbury show will be a duplication of Selena’s last live performance from the Astrodome in Houston, including Escobar wearing Selena’s signature purple two-piece pantsuit.
“It’s important to do it the right way — no mediocrity, just pure love for the music,” Escobar says. “If you are not a real fan, the crowd will see right through you.”