Dignity in Times of Trouble 

Mirza Ramic F14 uses music to bring solace to people in conflict zones
Mirza Ramic performs on stage.

Music helps Mirza Ramic F14 make sense of the world. 

“Music has always been the thing that's carried me through difficult times,” said Ramic.  

Ramic was born in Bosnia, and when he was 13 years old, he moved to the United States as a refugee of the Bosnian War.  

His mother taught him to play the piano, which guided him through those difficult years. 

“That was the only thing that was the same in our constantly changing environment,” he said. “Music has always had a very deep, emotional meaning for me.” 

Providing Solace to People in Ukraine 

Today, Ramic is known to fans for his trip hop music project, Arms and Sleepers. Based in Berlin, he frequently travels around the world to tour. Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ramic played a show in Kyiv at a time when many Americans might have canceled their plans, a decision which led the New York Times to profile him earlier this year.    

“I'm happy if my music can bring some peace and calm to somebody’s life in tough times,” said Ramic. “That's one of the reasons I went to Ukraine last October, to return the favor of all the support that I've received from Ukraine in the last 10 years and bring a little solace during these tough times.” 

“I think that you can reach more people through arts, music, and culture because of that emotional aspect,” he added. “Of course, we need people who are doing technical work: relief agencies, humanitarian aid. But there's also this cultural aspect that keeps people dignified and gives them a sense of hope. That was certainly true in Bosnia when I was a kid. It was comedy and music that kept people alive because nothing else was happy at that time.” 

Two Angles on International Conflict  

As an undergraduate at Bowdoin College, Ramic studied post-Soviet politics, and his interest in international affairs led him to apply to Fletcher. Yet, Ramic’s interest was never purely academic.  

“When you go through war, lose your homeland, and become a refugee, that's a very emotional, raw attachment you have to international conflict,” Ramic said. “I think that's one of the reasons that music really works for me; I’m able to express that side.”  

While he’s always been drawn to music’s capacity to help him explore the personal side of conflict, his studies provided him with significant context to interpret the politics he confronts in his work.  

“Studying things like the Orange Revolution in a class at Bowdoin, and then continuing that at Fletcher, gave me a wider scope on what’s going on in Ukraine,” he said. “With The New York Times, I was able to see things from more perspectives than just as an artist because I went to Fletcher.” 

Ramic hadn’t attended Fletcher with plans to pursue music full-time. He started Arms and Sleepers as a passion project after completing his undergraduate education. Enrolling at Fletcher, he was certain that his master’s degree would lead him to work in a field more closely related to government and policy. It was through the encouragement of his peers at Fletcher that he decided to take the leap and pursue a career in music.  

“At Fletcher, I met people who came from all walks of life,” he said. “There were people who used to work for the FBI who are now making clothes, and another person who came from consulting became a screenwriter. Talking to people who were considering all kinds of options gave me the encouragement that it was okay to go back to music if that's what I really wanted to do.” 

Read more about Fletcher’s human security and humanitarian affairs field of study.