Concert For Ukraine: Alina Bzhezhinska and guests at Symphony Hall Birmingham

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

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

Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.


L-R: Xhosa Cole, Mikele MonTolli, Alina Bzhezhinska, Joel Prime, Adam Texeira. Photo credit: John Watson /

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

Alina Bzhezhinska. Photo credit: John Watson /

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

Alina Bzhezhinska’s harp. Photo credit: John Watson /

I was delighted to be invited by LondonJazzNews to create a photo essay of the rehearsals and concert, which was organised and curated by Alex Carr, recently appointed as Programmer and Talent Developer at B:Jazz. All the profits from ticket and merchandise sales going to help projects in Ukraine. My aim as a photographer was to capture the moments of intensity – the kind of positive anger that perhaps only music can convey over what is happening to Ukraine – along with the many moments of joy that are always to be found in any Alina performance.

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

Xhosa Cole. Photo credit: John Watson /

With her funky HipHarp Collective quartet came a host of special guests: Glaswegian trombonist, singer and hip-hop artist Noushy, Birmingham saxophonist and flautist Xhosa Cole (above) , and singer/hip-hop artist NeONE the Wonderer with his own band. I caught Xhosa Cole in close-up, in the hope that 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 bassist Mikele MonTolli, percussionist Joel Prime and drummer Adam Texeira. Outstanding pieces included a solo harp tribute to Alina’s hero Alice Coltrane, and a rocking “Afro Blue” with vocals from trombonist/ singer/ hip-hop specialist Noushy (Anoushka Nanguy), above.

Alina Bzhezhinska. Photo credit: John Watson /

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

Symphony Hall, Birmingham 2022. Photo credit: John Watson /

Her T-shirt proclaimed: “Make Music, Not War” . . . and a Ukrainian flag (above) was symbolically draped over her monitor.

DONATIONS: HipHarp Collective Ukraine Donate Page

Leave a Reply