By Tammy Scileppi
Since embarking on her rocky, but awesome journey to fame, a dynamic vocalist from Queens has always kept it real, never forgetting her roots.
And no matter where the head-turning Latina entertainer performs, her diverse fans like it that way.
MARi from the block – in Elmhurst – says she feels like “music and tacos are an epic combo, inspired from back in the day when you’d come out of a club late at night with nothing else open but the taco stand on the street.” Rumor has it the singer and her crew have actually cooked tacos for fans after her performances.
Taking New York City’s music scene by storm, the relative newcomer has been rocking the Latin beats with her insanely infectious dance, reggae and R&B rhythms, and a voice that’s pure pop gold spiked with soul.
“I’d say I have old school soul and style like Mariah and one of my all-time favorites Celia Cruz, with modern day Shakira and J-Lo tracks. They all stay classy, but evolve with the day we’re in,” MARi points out.
Like millions of New Yorkers, the entertainer believes that a great way to get into that holiday spirit is by listening to music, and that somehow those traditional standards never go out of style. Especially if the songs are transformed into pop and soul, with a sprinkling of EDM (electronic dance/club music) to shake things up a bit.
The glammed up, energetic diva would like to wish everyone Feliz Navidad! with her just-released five-song Spanglish EP “Have Yourself a MARi Little Christmas.” Whether you’re a Latin music lover or just feel like adding a little extra flavor to your holiday playlist, the Latin vibe will rev up your celebrations and mood — even if you’re feeling a bit down — with tunes from her treasure trove of hits.
“This album is like no other because in classic MARi style, I decided to keep the beauty of the holiday but put my sabor on top,” she says. “When we were starting as per usual, my team thought I was crazy making tunes like Feliz Navidad into EDM, but it more than worked and I am excited to have a beautiful Spanglish Christmas project that is appealing to all cultures and ages.”
Coming from a place of hope and spirituality, MARi sings from the heart. At times, she belts out songs of empowerment and religious inspiration in the Christian and Gospel music genres, as well.
Whether it’s on her own solo headlining excursions, opening for multimillion album selling Grammy winner TobyMac with fellow trendsetter Hollyn, or appearing on major TV networks such as TBN and JUCE, MARi is always authentic and humble. It’s just how she rolls, even when walking the red carpet at award ceremonies.
“I’ll never get to the point where I’m cooler than anyone,” she says. “We all just have to band together and walk in love. A platform can be used just so we can look great, but that’s not what I’m going for anymore.”
Recording in Nashville with an amazing all-star team of industry bigwigs, she just finished wrapping up a year in the studio with minor touring in between.
The singer recently took part in two big parades, Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day and Nashville Christmas, promoting her new album. Finishing up the year doing radio promotions, she says in 2018 she will be “a gypsy on the road for sure, so please keep an eye out…
MARi hopes to perform in Queens sometime in the future.
For many years, life hadn’t treated the budding singer kindly, but her music and deep faith were her salvation, and eventually, she found peace and harmony.
Not one to sugar coat any of the bad stuff she endured, she recalls suffering terrible abuse at an early age and experiencing further abuse when she was first married. And recently, she had a harrowing near death experience. Having gone through a major healing process, she and her marriage and family (she has a daughter) are whole again.
“Even though you see all the glam and gaudiness, I’m honestly the poster child for ‘if she can make it, anyone can make it,” says MARi. “I’ve overcome so many dark seasons in my life, but I didn’t let any of them overcome me.”
A Boston native, the singer grew up in Elmhurst with her adoptive Puerto Rican familia, but her birth parents were Cuban.
“Growing up between my biological family that was very secular and an adoptive family that was very Christian, I had a balance between both musical worlds,” she recalls. “I’m half Puerto Rican and half Cuban, so I’m straight up Latina and that’s played a role as well. It’s actually an awesome combination that’s really given me the motivation, passion and fire to keep on going.”
These days, the singer commutes between New York and Tennessee, where she records her music, and says it’s the best of both worlds. “Country and city mix better than I thought.”
Young MARi started singing and playing her grandfather’s piano at the age of 9, “and it has been a vital tool in my writing and creative process,” she says.
Now that her career has taken off, she explains how she got here and says, “Keep your eye on the prize and never stop hustling.”
“Take the crumbs and love it, and make a cake! There’s so many talented people that always say you gotta know someone or have money and it’s mostly true, but you have to work and do more than your part, too,” she says.
Before she started singing and writing songs, MARi had a slew of jobs.
“I have pushed carts, worked behind a bakery counter, tarred roofs and fixed toilets as a superintendent in the city… I worked and paid my own way, and prayed to meet the right people. One door led to another, that closed another, but then again opened another,” she recalls.
“I grinded in the studio, wrote constantly, made as many contacts as possible and, played as much as possible. It’s not overnight or when we think we’re ready, so always keep working and it will happen when it’s time.”
She adds: “People make it look glamorous. It sucks and it’s not fun but that’s why even though many are talented, not many make it. Don’t let go of the rope, and don’t hate the process.”