Photo courtesy of Juan L. Ortiz
It’s been almost 20 years since Jocelyn Enriquez was a staple on radio airwaves and dance floors throughout the Bay Area and eventually across the country. Her irresistible freestyle hits like “Do You Miss Me?” and “A Little Bit of Ecstasy” landed her on the Billboard 200 charts and global tours, and marked her as a beacon for bubbling artists soon to follow: FilAm R&B acts like Kai, Buffy, One Vo1ce and Pinay (Enriquez was a founding member). Enriquez was the first Filipina-American to find mainstream success and helped define a brimming Bay Area scene that may have fizzled out as soon as it sparked, but whose music still continues to be played at family parties, cotillions, and the occasional bar (that is, if you follow the right DJs) to this day.
On July 20, Enriquez returns home to headline the a special throwback edition of UNDISCOVERD SF, the season opener to the festival’s third season. We spoke to Enriquez on a call from San Antonio, Texas, where she currently resides with her husband and kids, on uplifting the Filipino culture and community through music and coming back home to the Bay Area to celebrate with her kababayan, or family.
TBB: You’re widely known as the Queen of Freestyle — after all these years, is that something you still feel like you own?
Jocelyn Enriquez: Honestly, for me, it’s still like, ‘Really? That’s so weird (laughs)’. It really is a homegrown story in which I was just a girl that wanted to pursue a singing career and I just happened to be at the right time and right place to where it all happened. I was a college student, I recorded in November right before Thanksgiving and in three days, WiLD 107.7 (now WiLD. 94.9) wanted to break it. It was crazy. So really, I just being caught in the moment. Even now, it’s humbling to hear the pride of the community, to be looked up to as a pioneer.
TBB: Was music something you were pursuing at a young age?
JE: Around the age of 8 I went to a prestigious girls music school in the Bay Area called the San Francisco Girls Chorus. I actually have classical training; We would sing four-part, eight-part music and I loved the intricacy of harmonizing. So I found friends that loved to sing, that also appreciated four-part harmony and we were like, hey, let’s put together a group. It was very casual — we didn’t have a goal to get signed or anything, it was just something we loved to do, that was part of our pastime growing up.
But I was also involved with a lot of organizations — YFEC (Young Filipino Entertainers Club) which was established in the Daly City area to give an opportunity to young performers as an after-school program rather than getting involved into trouble. We would just have production seasons and we’d perform at Serramonte Del Rey, or different organizations, the Pangasinan group, the Batangas group. They would have coronation nights or fiestas and we would be the band that they would hire. If you were around then, I was some way, somehow affiliated back then. Anything that had to do with entertaining, I would be there.
TBB: At that time during the height of your career and finding mainstream success, did you feel any pressure at all to represent the Filipino community?
JE: I never looked at it that way because honestly it was literally an overnight thing. I mean from walking into the studio and just sharing my goals and also nurturing me into the industry, going into the studio and recording “I’ve Been Thinking About You,” it was literally three days. The turnaround was so quick, I couldn’t even think. And even at that time, I was still doing both (recording solo and with Pinay) because it didn’t really hit me that I was going to be touring. It was such an overnight success that it didn’t dawn on me.
It’s still surreal to me after all these years. I’m just trying to remain grateful and humble about it because it is a beautiful thing, and I hear different stories of how my music has impacted lives