Mark Lockett, host and founder of WJC’s upcoming trip to New York to record a new album, created a space-time disturbance that brought Simona Smirnova and her bird songs to Wellington. The show was the first in her current New Zealand “Bird Language” tour.
Born in a small Lithuanian village, Simona studied jazz in Boston and now resides in New York City, a mecca for jazz musicians. Her new programme is full of folk and jazz fusion notes. It is Simona’s statement about climate change, and it is an effort to raise awareness by rekindling the ancient connection between humans and nature.
She narrates her story minstrel-like, fingering the strings of her kanklės (a Lithuanian zither) to invite us into a world of magic and the power of nature: a reconnection with the mother Earth.
Her fresh and vibrant voice flows like a mighty and pure river, bringing hope, clarity, and strength to the hearts of the audience. The exotic sounds of her ancient instrument commune with jazz harmonies to create a bridge between eras and lifestyles:
A field of dandelions pervades the space between concrete structures, dulling the blare of honking horns and flashing lights. Mythical creatures emerge from the shadows of skyscrapers while tectonic plates move and volcanoes awaken from sluggish sleep at the sound of her voice.
The planet has come back to life, and everyone in the audience can feel it awakening.
Simona’s album is an admixture of original pieces, folk melodies, and jazz standards which permit her vocal talents to glitter in a kaleidoscope of facets. There is no doubt that she can deliver jazz standards with sublime effect. But simultaneously her voice evokes feelings of happiness: of being firmly grounded in the real world. Her enchanting vocal improvisations of bird sounds reminded me of tuī songs filled with joy and the anticipation of spring.
A who’s who of local talent—Hikurnagi Shavereign-Kaa on drums, Seth Boy on bass, Duncan Hanes on piano, and Dylan Holmes on saxophone—accompanied Simona. Each show in the tour features a different setup. No one has disappointed her so far. Every performance adds new feelings, unfolds new aspects, and creates a deeper connection with the local community.
The album is available on all major streaming platforms.

By Charlie Queen