Photos by Mark Mattos

Rwandan-born singer, songwriter, cultural dancer, and poet Clarisse Karasira performed at Mayo Street Arts on January 21. Sharing the billing was Mesa Shubek, born and raised in Maine and herself an accomplished pianist, singer, songwriter, and accompanist.  

“The concert was one-of-a-kind and I felt really grateful and humbled. The audience was very engaging, happy. And to me, that’s the most fulfilling part of my work.”

Audience member Peace Mutesi (left) joins Clairesse Karasira in a dance at the close of Karasira’s performance at Mayo Street Arts.

Karasira moved to Maine eager to expand an already flourishing musical career. Well known in Rwanda, Karasira has received numerous awards and accolades and has a YouTube presence with millions of views. She favors a traditional style, rooted in the music she grew up with as the daughter of a pastor father and church choir director mother.  

  Karasira’s Mayo Street Arts debut  featured a mix of her own compositions as well as songs by a major influence and childhood favorite, Miriam Mekeba. Touching on themes of love, unity, and motherhood, Karasira easily engaged the sold-out audience, enticing them to join her for several audience-participation dance numbers.  

Accompanist Mesa Shubeck (left) and Clairesse Karasira performing at Mayo Street Arts.

“I will launch my third album in August and have many performances coming up. And I would say that is going to be very special this year to my career as a musician, God willing. Of course.”

Shubeck’s music featured her own compositions, and described a wide range of topics from childhood memories to racial and social justice-related current events. The women represent very different musical paths but clearly enjoyed the numbers they performed together.