AN AFGHAN refugee from Solihull gave his debut singing and dancing performance alongside former Eurovision star and Liverpool pop sensation Sonia.
Raza Ahmadzai was evacuated from Afghanistan and was forced to flee his home country after the Taliban regained control.
The 25-year-old decided to join the project which has brought the National Lottery funded European Youth Music Refugee Choir (EYMRC) together with Sonia for a special rendition of her 1989 UK No.1 hit You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You which he was told about by his social worker.
Ahmadzai said: “It’s really new for me because I have never done singing or dancing before – I am not a singing or dancing person.
“But it was suggested I take part so I can have a new experience, go to a new city, meet different people, other refugees and asylum seekers and have more exposure to British culture. I have made some new friends.
“I am nervously excited to be part of Eurovision. It’s a great opportunity. For a person who hasn’t sung before, to actually sing with a really good singer is a huge step but I am really excited.”
His journey whilst in the UK has been aided by National Lottery initiatives such as the choir, which has helped Ahmadzai come out of his shell and meet other refugees and asylum seekers with similar experiences.
Following rehearsals a week earlier at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, the choir sang alongside Sonia at the National Lottery-funded Everyman Theatre – on the aptly named Hope Street in the city – ahead of the Eurovision final on May 13.
And having never before performed in a choir, Ahmadzai is keen to carry on singing after Eurovision thanks to the impact on his mental health.
“It has been amazing. The Home Office and local authorities have been really helpful in every way – they have been supporting us from the start to the end,” he added.
“There is an amazing team from the Home Office working with us, they are really nice and friendly. I never felt like somebody from outside, I felt like somebody at home. The only difference is the language.
“I am going to try to keep singing because it’s the first time I have tried it and I really liked it. It helps you mentally.
“While I have been doing this event, I don’t feel any anxiety or pressure – I don’t feel like I have any problems at all. It feels like the perfect environment a human can have.”
National Lottery players raise more than £30 million a week for arts, education, environment, health, heritage, sport, and voluntary projects across the UK; see the difference it’s making near you at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk