Singing Out to Selena: Bidi Bidi Banda
Under the vivid spotlights, Stephanie Bergara sings passionately with Selena’s signature tattooed on her left arm at Texas Public Radio’s Summer Nights Series. Her voice resonates in the hall, bouncing off the walls with exuberance. “To see someone’s face or to see how a person’s heart just erupts when they hear songs live, will never get old for me,” she shares with TPR.
Stephanie Bergara is the leader, vocalist, and face of Bidi Bidi Banda, a tribute band from Austin, TX, that exclusively covers the music of the late Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Dedicated and ambitious, Bergara has been a long-time avid fan of the “Queen of Tejano”, singing her songs along the River Walk of San Antonio, before she founded the band in 2014.
Alongside band members Rocky Reyna, Coby Ramirez, Mike Aguilar, Luke Salas, and Luiz Sanchez, the band received positive remarks and compliments and also performed in cities from Los Angeles to New Orleans.
Amongst the band’s continued success, Bergara was the first-ever Latina to perform at Austin City Limits’ Blues on the Green at Zilker Park in front of 25,000 people, a glorious feat in her book. “We are a relatively new band… and it’s kind of a shell-shock to be playing for tons of people” exclaimed Bergara.
“I hope that people will see that we’re just out there having fun,” added Bergara. Despite the iconography of Selena’s image, Bergara focuses her attention on the music.“ I care less about looking like her or getting the dance moves correct.”
Bidi Bidi Banda will continue to perform in selective venues in 2021 as the pandemic regulations are lifted, to play such timeless songs as “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and “No Me Queda Más” for zealous and inspired Selena fans.
Bidi Bidi Banda will be one of three featured bands at a public watch party event hosted by Texas Public Radio at Legacy Park on Thursday, June 24 at 7 p.m. Get details on this free event at this link. Below is an extended interview with Stephanie Bergara, with TPR’s Jiawen Chen.
Jiawen Chen: The first question I have for you is, how has Covid-19 impacted the band this previous year?
Stephanie Bergara: On a typical day in a typical year, we have about 60 to 80 shows. We had about 50 canceled shows in March of last year. It did force us to kind of think about how we were presenting ourselves to audiences all over the world. We jumped in and started streaming and I was film editing. We tried to make the best of it, but it was a sucker punch, just like it was for everybody else.
JC: Can you tell me a little bit more about the band members?
SB: Sure. Rocky Reyna is our bass player. He’s in the crowd, hyping people up and doing gritos (shouting). Coby Ramirez plays percussion and is the heart and soul of the band. Our newest member is Mike Aguilar, plays on the drums. He sings and addresses the audience in Spanish. We have Luke Salas, who plays guitar and our showman for sure. His personality really shines. Luis Sanchez is our keyboard player and bandleader, he created the hand motions for what songs we’re going to play. The guys are super supportive. The stage is run by a woman; it’s very much a family unit. I can’t think of anybody else I want to be on stage with.
JC: How the band changed your life as a musician?
SB: We do cover songs as a tribute to Selena. We’re playing songs that people already know, it sort of feels like there’s a built-in audience for it. We are a relatively new band and we don’t have any original music, but we’re playing 10-20,000 people at a time. It is kind of a shell-shock to be such a new-ish band and still be playing for tons of people. Everybody knows this music, of course, all over the world. It definitely forced me to become a grown-up in a very quick way. It’s exciting.
JC: What part of Selena’s personality do you most embody?
SB: Interesting question. One of the first shows we played was in San Antonio’s Illuminaria. After we played our show, this older woman comes up to me. She said “I saw Selena alive, you don’t exactly sound or look like her. But the personality is there.” For me, that is honestly the better compliment I’ve gotten in doing the band. The most important thing is hoping that people will see we’re out here having fun. I care less about looking like her or getting the dance moves correct.
JC: Have you had any contact with the Quintanilla family?
SB: Yes, early on. They’ve been kind and accommodating to us and let us know what they’re ok with. We have a lot of respect [for them]. We’ve been in touch a few times. They’ve been super respectful and vice versa.
JC: Do you ever get tired of playing Bidi Bidi Bom Bom?
To see someone’s face or to see how a person’s heart just erupts when they hear this song play live, that’s never going to get old for me.
SB: No. Because we’ve been playing in the band for just over seven years, doing these songs in a new city or a place you never played before, it’s a treat for a lot of people. It’s everybody’s favorite song and sometimes it’s the only song they know. To see someone’s face or to see how a person’s heart just erupts when they hear this song play live, that’s never going to get old for me.
JC: Besides Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, what is another favorite song to play?
SB: My favorite song to do is “No Me Queda Más.” I’d be singing the song on the River Walk; it was the catalyst for my interest in becoming a musician. And then, two years later, I get to sing for Texas Public Radio.
JC: Where was your favorite venue to perform at?
SB: I think my favorite show probably was Blues on the Green, which is at Zilker Park. 25,000 people, the music series is a summer series that existed as long as I’ve been alive. I was the first Latina to ever play on the Green, so it was incredibly special. Right after my son was born, I was like “Can I still play music?” An invite to play was just the right place and right time.
JC: How do you define success in music?
SB: I think success in music is if you can make music the only thing you do. You don’t have to be Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, if you can make enough money to make music your only job, raising children, and buying a house, I think that is a success.
JC: What are your ambitions and goals for the band in 2021 and the future?
SB: I would love to be able to put the band back on the road. The goal this year sounds kind of funny because you’d think we’d be playing more, but we’d like to be more selective about what we do. This is our livelihood. We’ve been everywhere from New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix. Putting the band on a path that is streamlined and where we can play shows and make money is a big goal. As a personal goal, I’ve got my own original music coming out later this summer. I’m really excited.
JC: Is that a real tattoo of Selena's name on your arm?
SB: 100 percent, it is. This is exclusive. We got called about from the Quintanillas about the utilization of Selena’s picture and her logo on our marketing materials. We got a call from the family letting us know what was allowable and what wasn’t. The logo with the big S was not allowable on posters. There wasn’t any specific wording about putting the logo on my body and then holding a microphone in that hand and taking a picture of it. So yes, it’s very real.
JC: If Selena were alive today, what would you say to her?
SB: Oh my gosh, I’ve gotten this question in a couple of different ways before but never in that way. I think I would just say thank you and would want her to know that I really and honestly like these songs; it feels to me that these songs are on loan. I’m just borrowing them. I would make sure she knew that I am trying to make my own way and that my intention was not to do Selena forever. I’d really hope that I could convey that to her in some way and that she’d be OK with it.