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Web makes Tajik migrant a star

By Dina Newman
BBC News

Baimurat Allaberiyev performing in Russia
Jimmy hopes to never work on a construction site again

In a demonstration of the viral power of the internet, a migrant worker from Tajikistan has become an unlikely singing sensation in Russia.

Baimurat Allaberiyev came to Russia, like hundreds of thousands of his compatriots, to work on construction sites to support a family of six back at home.

In his spare time, he entertained his fellow workers with his favourite Bollywood songs.

A year ago, his friends filmed him on a mobile phone singing in Hindi, both male and female parts, while dancing and drumming on cardboard boxes, empty buckets and anything else that came to hand.

The video went on YouTube - and Baimurat, now "Jimmy", became an instant hit, attracting tens of thousands of clicks in a few months.

'Unique ethnic sound'

Last April, Roman Gruzov, a journalist from St Petersburg, came to interview Jimmy and found him working in a supermarket and recovering from a racist attack he had suffered the previous night.

Racism against Tajik migrant workers is common in Russia.

"I loved his singing, says Mr Gruzov, "even though he was shy because he was missing two teeth after the attack."

Now Jimmy can not walk through the streets of St Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, without being recognised.

"Everyone treats me with respect these days, because people have seen me on TV. Even my family in Tajikistan have seen me on TV, and my father says - Jimmy, you are now a star! This makes me very happy."

Through his connections in the music world, Mr Gruzov introduced him to producer Ilya Bortnyuk, who has now signed a contract with Jimmy and hopes to launch his career in world music, with a repertoire of Afghan, Central Asian, Russian and Hindi songs.

"I am hoping to develop a unique ethnic sound for Jimmy," says Ilya.

"We have just begun rehearsals, and it's very exciting. He is the most unusual singer I've seen in my life."

Despite a few successful concerts and TV appearances, Ilya Bortnyuk admits that betting on Jimmy is a huge gamble, particularly in Russia where Asian songs do not attract a large audience.

But Jimmy is convinced he will never have to work on a construction site again.

"I've prayed to God all my life," he says, "and God has granted me my wish. When I sing I am the happiest man in the world. Now that I am an artist I will marry in Russia and travel the world."



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