London celebrations

Alina Bzhezhinska and guests at Symphony Hall Birmingham – London Jazz News

MY COUNTRY IS BURNING Alina Bzhezhinska and her guests, Concert For Ukraine

(Symphony Hall, Birmingham, August 26, 2022. Closing event of B: Jazz Festival. Photo-essay by John Watson)

From left to right: Xhosa Cole, Mikele Montolli, Alina Bzhezhinska, Joel Prime, Adam Texeira. Photo credit: John Watson /

John Watson went to hear, see and photograph the virtuoso harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and her guests in rehearsal and in concert. Their concert at Birmingham Symphony Hall brought the second B:Jazz Festival to a moving and often thrilling climax. The gig also raised money for his brutalized birthplace, Ukraine.. Link to fundraiser below.

As Alina wrote: “My country is burning. As an ethnic Ukrainian and a human being, I cannot be silent. I wish I could go fight alongside my family who are in the resistance, but I have to stay where I am and use my music as a weapon.

I was delighted to be invited by LondonJazzNews to create a photo reportage of the rehearsals and concert, curated by Tony Dudley Evans of TDE Productions, with all proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales going to projects in Ukraine. My goal as a photographer was to capture the moments of intensity – the kind of positive anger that perhaps only music can convey about what is happening in Ukraine – as well as the many moments of joy that are always found in any performance of Alina.

In this shot of Alina’s harp, I tried to capture the moving strings, to evoke their shimmering sound.

With his funky quartet HipHarp Collective, there were a host of special guests: trombonist from Glasgow, singer and hip-hop artist Ushysaxophonist and flautist from Birmingham Xhosa Cole (above), and hip-hop singer/artist NeONE the Wonderful with his own group. I shot Xhosa Cole close-up, hoping the “tight” shot would convey the intimacy of his tone.

Noushy (Anoushka Nanguy) at Alina’s concert. Photo credit: John Watson /

The HipHarp collective is completed by the bassist Mikele Tacchipercussionist Joel Premier and drummer Adam Texeira. Standout pieces include a solo harp tribute to Alina’s hero, Alice Coltrane, and a rock “Afro Blue” featuring the voice of the trombonist/singer/hip-hop specialist. Noushy (Anoushka Nanguy), above.

Here, Alina seems to be hitting the strings angrily. We also heard harp sounds of passion, sympathy and great beauty.

His T-shirt proclaimed: “Make music, not war”. . . and a Ukrainian flag (above) was symbolically draped over his monitor.

DONATIONS: HipHarp Collective Ukraine Donate Page