Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tajik Jimmy

If you did a Leggy Starlitz remix of Rainman and Los Pikadientes de Caborca, surely it would end up producing "Tajik Jimmy," the Russian web phenom, a Tajikistan stockboy with the strange gift of being able to singlehandedly replicate entire Bollywood soundtracks with nothing but his own voice and a tin bucket tabla. NYT:

THE great cities of Russia are still strange to Baimurat Allaberiyev, who as a younger man herded sheep in his native Tajikistan for a salary of one lamb per month. Two years after moving here, he still wonders aloud where the apples in the market come from, since he cannot see apple trees anywhere.

For this reason, his manager has assigned an assistant, 22-year-old Natalya Glazova, to look after Mr. Allaberiyev as he pursues his career in show business. Ms. Glazova quickly developed a fondness for the new client, and her heart flipped over with pity when on their first meeting, she realized that the things he was carrying — a change of clothes in a nylon sports bag — were everything he owned.

The rise of Mr. Allaberiyev, widely known as Tajik Jimmy, a migrant worker in a provincial Russian stockroom who delivers astonishing renditions of Bollywood musical numbers, is one more testament to the strange power of the Internet. A little more than a year after one of his performances was filmed by a co-worker with a cellphone and posted online, Mr. Allaberiyev cannot walk through a crowd in the Russian capital without being stopped by fans. This is especially remarkable given the place that Central Asian migrants occupy in Russian society: members of a vast and nearly invisible work force, targets of derision and occasional violence.

This summer, Mr. Allaberiyev quit his job loading boxes and decided to move to St. Petersburg to pursue fame. The transition has not been entirely smooth; after one of his first bookings, at a hip Moscow nightclub, he was so desperate for a place to stay that he asked journalists if they could take him home for the night. During an interview with The New York Times he asked for money to replace three teeth that were knocked out in April, when he was attacked by thugs on his way home from work.

“You have lots of people in America,” he said. “Send me lots of teeth.”

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