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.”
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.”
The show begins with Linda Linn taking the stage with her team of dancers. “I have to come in strong and hype the crowd,” the North Babylon resident says.
Performing her new Reggaeton-style single, “Que Te Valla Bien,” Linn will get the party started along with a cover of Hector Acosta’s “Me Voy De La Casa.”
Paired with the Selena celebration will be a tribute to the Gipsy Kings by Los Cintron. This rumba/flamenco band is fronted by the Cintron brothers — Cristobal, 52, and Rafael, 56 — who hail from Salamanca, Spain.
“It’s all about guitar rhythms and soulful singing,” says Cristobal, who lives in Queens. “We make you want to get up, dance and clap.”
This four-piece band will perform GK hits like “Bamboleo,” “Volaré,” “Baila Me” and “Djobi Djoba,” plus some originals (“Oye Mi Voz,” “Esta Buena,” “Contigo O Sin Ti”) mixed with traditional flamenco instrumentals.
SELENA’S 45th BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT
With Genessa & the Selena Experience, Los Cintron and Linda Linn
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, April 16, NYCB Theatre at Westbury
INFO 516-334-0800, venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com