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Austin-based tribute band honors Selena's memory

by Christine Bolaños

 

Kat de Luna fights back tears before singing lyrics from " Como La Flor," a song that became synonymous with Selena’s beauty and grace after her passing. "She was one of my greatest influences. She was a fighter. She represented a united family. Selena stood out," de Luna said on Siempre Selena. "As an artist, I’m so excited (for what that signifies). I could relate."

Selena is memorialized in many ways, most notably in Corpus Christi, home to a statue in her honor, a museum and where she was laid to rest 20 years ago. Perhaps, most significantly, she is remembered through her music. Music, after all, transcends time.

Bidi Bidi Banda, an all-star tribute band, is celebrating her birthday April 16th. The event begins at 9 p.m. at 1905 W. Oltorf St. in Austin. There is no cover and all ages are welcome.

"Bidi Bidi Banda was an idea that I had about a year ago around the time that the Pachanga Latino Music Festival was happening in Austin. I’ve worked on the festival since its inception in 2008 and thought this would be a fun way to kick off that weekend," Lead Vocalist Stephanie Bergara says. "When I started to think about what artist I wanted to cover, Selena was at the top of the list. She was the only choice, actually. We played the show to an epic crowd who knew every word to every song, and the rest is history."

Bidi Bidi Banda is billed as an All-Star band, because it truly is, band leader and lead guitarist Rene Chavez says. Bergara has nearly 12 years of experience, grew up listening to Selena songs in her bedroom and sings lead vocals in acoustic trio Ricky Zuela. For his part, Chavez has traveled across North America playing with bands like The Sour Notes, Este Vato and Ricky Zuela. He is a formally-trained sound engineer and a "budding" event producer.

Drummer Frank Ramirez has more than 25 years of experience and plays a with a wide range of notable bands including Augustin Ramirez, Street People, Este Vato and The Bellfuries. Keyboard player Rat Silvas has played with the likes of Little Joe y La Families and Sunny & The Sunliners, Chavez shares. Silvas brings more than 40 years of music experience to the band.

Violinist Haydn Vitera is an accomplished player of all genres and has lent his talent to The Ace in The Hole Band, Asleep at The Wheel, Los Super 7 and his own projects Vitera and The Tequila Rock Revolution. Rocky Reyna, Chavez says, plays bass and is a member of Austin Latin Fusion Band Este Vato and a founding member of Austin Cult Space Rock band Exeter. The Austin music "tastemaker" produces dozens of shows annually with his company, Gran Sonido.

Saxophone player and Detroit native Joshua Thompson is the band’s "most worldly musician," having traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, with his Middle Eastern Jazz trio Atlas Major last year. He also plays a wide array of bands, Chavez adds, including Sonidos San Francisco, Gina Chavez and Cilantro Boombox.

Marcus Morales is a classically trained Mariachi trumpet player. "Marcus plays in a colorful combination of bands including the dirty heat, Travel by Stars, and his own project, Marcus and The Washboard Machine," Chavez adds.

Dave Farris is an accomplished conga player with more than 20 years of experience and a wide interest in many music genres. Chavez says Farris has played with the likes of Hector Ward and The Big Time and Este Vato.

Backing Vocalist Vanessa Burden serves as lead vocalist in Austin Salsa band La Vida Buena. She also hosts her own radio program on Austin’s KOOP Radio entitled The Beats of Burden, Chavez says.

"The unique thing about being in this band (Bidi Bidi Banda) is that we basically started from scratch. There are no chords or charts of Selena’s music available to learn from. We had to learn everything from the ground up," Chavez explains. "Everything that we are playing has been charted out by the band and learned by ear, which is not always an easy task, it’s a difficult catalog. It’s all recreated live, keys, vocals, every percussion riff. It’s all sink or swim when we are up there, which makes the performance very exciting to be a part of."

The best part of being a member of Bidi Bidi Banda is the electricity the audiences bring to the show, says Reyna. "To play these songs, all of which are 20 years old, and have people still love them and know all the words is really a testament to Selena’s legacy as an icon," he says.

Bergara says she hopes the April 16th event will give people a chance to come together to share their love for Selena. "And to celebrate her extraordinary life with other people who loved her as well," she says.

Reyna explains there just had to be an event to celebrate Selena’s birthday in Austin. "Especially in 2015, 20 years after her untimely death. We are all south Austinites," Reyna shares. "The ABGB, is south and kid friendly. Most of the guys in the band are dads as well. We figured this would be a perfect location for the biggest birthday party we’ve ever thrown!"

In addition to the April 16th event, Bidi Bidi Banda is planning another tribute show Sunday, April 19 at Rain on 4th Street in Austin. They hit the stage at 10 p.m.

The beach town of Corpus Christi, Texas, will celebrate Selena with a two-day festival at Bayfront Park. According to sacurrent.com, the April 17-18 event, Fiesta de la Flor, will "feature exciting names in Tejano and Texas music" for a $5 admission.

Both events are sure to bring out the joy, dance moves, red lipstick and laughter in fans that was and still remains Selena’s brand.

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