Beautiful music is even more so when born of an ugly world. Singer-songwriter Fatima Razic has a gorgeous voice: It aches, it evokes, it emotes, and it delivers a truck load of goosebumps. It is the sound of the artist crying out from within. There is no casual way to dig this 34-year-old Rochester-based musician. She's all in ... and as a listener, so are you.
The heartache Razic taps into is epic. As a refugee from the Bosnian War in the 1990's, she has experienced suffering, fear, and hatred. But the woman that emerged on the other side of this horror isn't bitter or damaged — she radiates optimism and hope. Her talent as a musician helps her seek and find the good hiding underneath. To fully understand her music you need to know the woman.
"I am a citizen of the world," Razic says. "I grew up in Bosnia. The war started when I was 10. My sister and I fled the city and were jumping on the buses trying to get out. At one point we got separated. We went to Croatia for three and a half years. My parents stayed back because they wanted to protect everything they'd built their whole life."
Both of Razic's parents were sent to concentration camps simply for being Muslim. Razic says she identifies as Muslim out of respect for her parents' ordeal, though her spirituality strikes a wider chord.
"I'm very spiritual," she says. "I identify with all sorts of religions as long as they're good people."
At 16, Razic and her two sisters came to America as refugees, arriving in St. Louis before ultimately landing in Rochester. She had a clear cut mission: finish college and get a job. She got her masters at RIT and landed a job in predictive analytics. Yet as exciting as that sounds, Razic wasn't thrilled. For here was a person who, as a child, would wait for everyone to leave the house so she could sing in front of the mirror. Now she was 28 and stuck in a cubicle eight hours a day.
"I wasn't happy," Razic says. "Something was missing in my life. I started taking piano lessons and going to open mics at Lovin' Cup, the Landing, Boulder Coffee. I quit my job. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I needed to find myself. When I started writing that's when it really hit me that I could express something I'd wanted to express my whole life. I never had for some reason."
Razic understands that it can be hard for listeners to draw a similar parallel to her own life experiences. The average person hasn't experienced her level of hardship, but Razic is able to turn it around and into art.
"Artists in general," she says, "I think we like to dwell on hardships in order to express it in a way that people will understand. It's cathartic for her it's cathartic for all who get a chance to listen. If I'm able to express something and I'm emotional about it, then people connect with it and understand it."
War, persecution, cruelty, ignorance — Razic has experienced it all. It used to make her mad.
"But now, for me it's a teaching moment." The question is how to fix it with music within that moment.
"I'm still sort of finding that out for myself," Razic says. "I'm not an activist, I'm not a feminist; I try to be me. This is who I am. I'm not going to try and persuade you, but listen, I grew up in war and this is what happens. Maybe war isn't the answer."
Razic's songs are little vignettes of truth; simple, direct, and emotional. Her first song — "When Will I See You Again" — was written from a letter she wrote to her father when she was 10 and they were half a world apart. She still gets misty when recalling it. Hearing her perform it live, you see the emotion as she wrings the words and tears out of her body.
Her words go everywhere she does, ready for lightning to strike.
"I have my book with me at all times," she says. "Usually it starts with words. I'll sit down at the piano — sometimes I get a riff going, a progression — and then open the book. It just depends where the book opens."
Razic won't let the song go until the song is right.
"When I can feel it, I can project it," she says. "If I believe the song, the audience will too."
Her songs will continue to enchant as she goes along. Razic is about halfway through recording her first album, and adding regional and local dates with artists like Jimmie Highsmith Jr. to her calendar. So you've got plenty of opportunities to hear her wonderful music ... music that's accessible but deeper than just plain old plastic pop.
"I can't do something that's an inch deep," she says. "It has to be a couple of feet deep for me. If I don't have anything to say then I won't say anything at all. Why waste my breath?"