Nordoff Robbins Music Therapist and beneficiary with guitar and piano

Ali’s Story

“I feel very lucky to be here, alive and well, and I have got to where I am thanks to my music therapist Kerry and Nordoff Robbins. It’s thanks to their work that people like me get to re-build our lives with the help of music.” Ali

Ali and music therapist Kerry, tell his story

Last Christmas was Ali’s first in the UK. He was forced to flee his home in Iran fearing for his life, after facing severe persecution.

Escaping was the only way to retain any hope for the future, but it came with a heavy price. “When I first arrived,” Ali tells us, “I felt so lost and lonely. Life was so difficult that I even thought about suicide, because I missed my home and my family so much.”

Ali first heard about Nordoff Robbins at the Croydon Refugee Day Centre he was attending. He jumped at the opportunity of having music therapy, and never missed a drop-in session.  Over time, our music therapist Kerry got to know Ali well. She discovered his huge passion for playing electric guitar and for heavy metal – music which is outlawed by the Iranian regime.


Kerry and ali tell us

“In the beginning of our work together, Ali was very anxious that his application for asylum was going to be rejected and that he would have to return to a country where he was experiencing persecution. His distress was reflected in his music making – his playing was very fragmented and he found it hard to concentrate.”

Through music, Kerry was able to help Ali experience a sense of meaningful connection, which increased his focus and helped to reduce the isolation he felt from being alone in the UK. Kerry fostered Ali’s passion for music, giving him access to an electric guitar, and the opportunity to make music together.

At first this wasn’t easy, as Ali tells us: “I felt constantly anxious and worried that I would not be accepted for asylum, and be sent back to Iran, where I would be persecuted. But soon, in music I started to feel more focused and confident. I was finally able to express myself in the way I had always wanted to – letting go of my fears and worries.”

Over time, Ali and Kerry began working on arrangements of songs he loved. Ali was invited to play at a concert during Refugee Week in June this year, and again at a Nordoff Robbins concert later in the summer. It was a positive experience for Ali and as Kerry tells us, “It was fantastic seeing so many members of the audience come up to him afterwards to compliment him on his playing, and to see the change in his confidence as a result.”

Music has given Ali the opportunity to connect to others, and to be valued in doing so. In a situation where Ali felt like he didn’t have a voice, music has given him the chance to be heard.

Life is still not easy for Ali. He misses his home and his family every day, but now there is hope and a plan for the future. Ali plans to return to university and finish his studies, which he had to abandon when he fled Iran.

“What I went through will leave its mark. But I am not here to talk and for you to cry. I am here to tell you how powerful music is.

“I have got to where I am thanks to Kerry, and Nordoff Robbins. And it is thanks to everyone supporting the charity, that people like me get to re-build our lives with the help of music.”