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Venezuelan migrant who sings for tips gets shot at stardom after chance meeting

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – When Mexican singer Mario Domm overheard a Venezuelan migrant crooning Domm’s own song in exchange for coins outside a restaurant in Bogota, Colombia, he was moved to tears by the young man’s powerful voice.

Now Domm is helping the singer, 22-year-old Alexander Beja, pursue his dream of musical stardom.

Beja is one of 1.4 million Venezuelans now living in Colombia, after fleeing a deep political and economic crisis in their home country that has caused long-running shortages of food and medicine.

The young singer arrived in Colombia last year and began to sing regularly on the streets of northern Bogota, in hopes of earning what money he could.

On the day last month when he was overheard by Domm, Beja was singing a tune called “Venezuela.”

“He had a voice like a bazooka,” said Domm, who founded the pop group Camila in 2005. “He has to use it.”

Domm bought Beja a mobile phone, and the two now talk daily to coordinate Beja’s planned September visit to Mexico, where he is set to record a duet with Domm.

“That’s when my life split in half,” said Beja, who walked and took buses for weeks to reach Bogota from his hometown of Maracay, near Venezuela’s Caribbean coast. He reunited in Colombia with two brothers.

“Honestly I can only say that there was a connection. I think my talent, more than singing, is in connecting with people, transmitting what I feel, and that’s what happened,” said Beja, sitting in the living room of the small apartment he shares with his brothers in Soacha, outside of Bogota.

“He cried and I cried.”

While he waits for a Mexican visa, Beja has continued to sing a cappella outside restaurants in tony parts of Colombia’s capital, where appreciative patrons deposit coins and small bills into his hat.

Beja earns about $15 a day singing. One of his brothers works in a restaurant, while the other works as a photographer.

Despite his current difficulties, Beja is confident he can reach musical stardom with help from Domm.

In the meantime, as he prepares for another day of singing, he urges his fellow migrants to keep their chins up.

“Don’t give up – it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Tom Brown)

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