Christal Robles recalls singing into the hairbrush as a child growing up in California. There was always music playing where she lived, she says, but some of the songs she loved best were sung by a fallen star from Texas named Selena.
“I was younger when I first listened to her music. It was my dad and my dad’s sister, they would play her CD,” Robles remembers. “Her music was in our household all the time, and I fell in love with it when I first heard it.”
Those songs, and especially the woman who delivered them, affected Robles in a major way. She started by mimicking Selena as a child, but ultimately found her own voice as a vocalist, one who has now performed onstage and auditioned for American Idol. But she’s never strayed too far from that star-struck kid with the hairbrush, which is why audiences should expect her to deliver a loving tribute to the Queen of Tejano Music at Como La Flor: A Tribute to Selena this Saturday night at Houston's Continental Club.
Paul R. Cuevas, owner of Soalz Entertainmen, is the show’s producer. He says the night, which is being co-hosted by Elk Records, will start with Tejas Got Soul’s DJ Simmer Down setting the mood before giving way to Tejano rockers Johnny & the Heartbreakers. The band will stay on to back Robles performing Selena’s biggest hits. Cuevas says Selena tribute shows appear frequently this time of year to commemorate her April birthday and her untimely passing on March 31, 1995. The singer was just two weeks shy of her 24th birthday when she was shot and killed by a business acquaintance. In the years since, her legacy has grown, and Cuevas says there are some good reasons she’s as relevant as ever.
“Aside from the music being great, she was a woman in a man’s market. She was able to build a great fan base, a great following,” Cuevas says. “And the way she went out – she was so young.”
But from Selena’s tragedy came triumph. Her story influenced artists to come, like Robles. When we asked her how she plans to “become” Selena for Saturday’s show, the question seemed to border on sacrilege.
“One [way to prepare] is respecting her. I know I will never be her," she says. "The way that I prepare myself is just by listening to the music every day,” Robles said.
She and the band have been putting in marathon rehearsals to ready for the gig, and Cuevas says the vibe at those practices bodes well for Saturday’s show.
“I’ve been to a lot of the rehearsals and the thing I like best is they’re having fun," he says. "The music is awesome and they’re having a good time playing it."
There will also be a Selena lookalike contest, with a $100 prize from event sponsor Texas Flooring & Renovations. We asked Robles – who has designed her own Selena-inspired wardrobe for the show – if she has any advice for contest hopefuls. Her unorthodox answer speaks volumes about who Selena was.
“I would say for them to just be themselves,” she said, encouraging contestants to follow Selena’s lead of being unique.
We didn’t want the full playlist – after all, part of the fun at any tribute show is guessing what the band will cover – but we did ask which song is a must, the one Robles insisted be in the set.
“My favorite song is ‘Como La Flor,’” she says. “I picked a lot of my favorites but that’s my ultimate favorite. Honestly, because of what she talks about in the song. So many people can relate to it.”
Selena’s relatability is why so many people still mourn her and why, even today, new generations of Selena fans are singing “Baila Esta Cumbia” and “Dreaming of You” into their hairbrushes, Robles says.
“That dream that you can do whatever you want to do – even at a young age, since I was a little girl, I’ve always thought about that,” she adds. “The fact that she didn’t even know Spanish – she had to learn Spanish just to sing – I respect that so much about Selena. To me, as a musician, if you can do that, you can do anything.”
Como La Flor: A Tribute to Selena, Saturday, April 8, at Continental Club, 3700 Main. Tickets are $18 via www.soalz.com. Doors at 7 p.m.; 21 and up.
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