When Jenny Ball met her Mexican bandmates at a flamenco café a decade ago in Spain, she didn’t speak any Spanish. Now based in Mexico after eight years of playing together, Jenny and the Mexicats band communicates and performs in English, Spanish … and Spanglish.
Ball, the lead singer and trumpet player, hails from Brixton, in south London, England, and used to play in a classical orchestra. “The pub [where] I went to drink, it has a plaque that says David Bowie used to play here,” Ball told Univision News during a visit to the newsroom where the band gave an impromptu performance.
David González Bernandos, the percussionist, comes from Spain, while Pantera and bassist Luis Díaz “Icho” are from Mexico. The band’s name is a play on words, combining Mexicans and cats. (The Spanish word for cats - “Gatos” - is also a nickname for Madrid natives.)
At the beginning, “music was our language, and [the Mexican band members] were translators,” said guitarist Alfonso Acosta “Pantera.”
Known for its unique sound-blending musical styles from flamenco to cumbia to folk, the band represents the diversity of its members. “The band is a combination of what we all like,” said Ball. Their music is also multilingual. “If you listen to a whole album of Jenny and the Mexicats, half of our music is in English and half is in Spanish,” said Ball.
After making their SXSW debut this year, the band is preparing to go on tour, including shows in the UK, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, and Andorra. And in October, they’re releasing a new album.
They’ve come a long way since their humble beginnings, when they had to sell cookies and cigarettes to pay for a flight to play a gig in England.
Ball, too, has changed since that fateful meeting in Madrid. After living in Spain and Mexico, she not only learned Spanish, but adapted to the culture. “I drink a lot of tea, but I have the Latin horario. I take my time,” she said.
She's glad to be away from the the cold weather and lack of sun in England, but misses the creative quality of the music scene there.
"Mexico just gives me something else," she said. “Latin America showed me something about the world in general that I knew existed but I just never lived it,” she added.