By Jean Noël Mugabo

A few months after she tied the knot with her former manager and boyfriend, Clarisse Karasira moved from Rwanda to Maine, the state she now calls home. And although she is far from new to the music industry in Africa, Karasira is a new talent in Maine. Amjambo Africa chatted with her about her life, her music career, her upcoming projects, and her advice for the next generation of artists.

The 24-year-old singer made her breakthrough in 2018 with the song “Giraneza.” As of January 2022, “Giraneza” had attracted more than 1.8 million YouTube views. But the breakthrough didn’t come right away. 

“I tried and failed several times. I was even about to give up,” she said. “I remember some projects in 2017 that did not blossom. It wasn’t until late 2018 that I made my first hit.”

“Giraneza” (which translates as “do well”) intrigued music enthusiasts with its message, rhythm, video production, and – most importantly – the artist’s appearance. She presented herself without jewelry and make-up, singing a fusion of traditional music with modern instrumentals, in proper, standard Kinyarwanda. Most of her audience believed she must either be advanced in age, or heavily groomed by elders – both of which are far from the reality.

“I can’t say that I took after my parents, as far as my music is concerned. I used to listen to traditional tales, idioms, songs, and plays, and I liked it so much. When I grew up, I studied literature, and found it to be so rich that I decided to dig a little deeper,” said Karasira.

Talking about her choice of traditional music rhythms, Karasira said she does not place restrictions on her choice of genre. She is open to producing songs using a variety  of rhythms, as long as she can share her positive message of the importance of living in harmony and unity.

“I am not against any musical genre. Tradition is not a rhythm. It is a way of living of certain people and cultures. I put more emphasis on the message than the rhythm. I can record any rhythm,” she said.

Now that Clarisse Karasira is a resident of Maine, after having married Rwandan American Sylvain de Joie Ifashabayo, she said she has ongoing music projects for her audiences here in Maine, back in Rwanda, and elsewhere in the world. If all goes well, she hopes her music will reach an international audience.

“I am finalizing my upcoming album, slated to come out very soon. It is called “Mama wa Afrika,” which means the Mother of Africa. We produced it keeping in mind that our audience base is expanding. So we chose songs in various languages. There are songs in Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, and English. I believe Mainers who don’t speak Kinyarwanda will enjoy this album.” 

With more than 29 million views on YouTube, Clarisse Karasira believes she can take her music to greater heights. “I am really thankful to the almighty Lord for granting me this talent, and for where my music is now. My plan is to reach more than that number in the future.”

She has a message to new artists and younger generations who are dreaming of a career in music. “Never lose focus, and always try hard. Never give up.” By focus, she explained that she thinks some performers work more on their physical appearance than their music, and forget about their actual field.  

“If they are fashion models, that is fine. But if they choose to do music, let them spend most of their time and energy in music, not on working on their appearances. It is good to look good, but my advice for new artists, with a clear vision of what they want to do, is to save time for the music more than any other thing.”

After her debut hit “Giraneza,” her next most-viewed songs include “Ntizagushuke,” “Twapfaga Iki,” “Ubuto,” “Kabeho,” “Rutaremara,” “Imitamenwa,” and the just-released “Ubuntu,” in which she rubbed shoulders with Himbaza Club from Burundi.

Karasira and her husband Sylvain de Joie were married in Kigali in May 2021. Five months earlier, de Joie posted a photo on her social media platform of a  princess-cut diamond ring. The site read:“The king has asked me to be the queen of his palace. Humbly, I have said ‘Yes’! I’m ready to do life with him forever in his ‘Palace.’ ” Clarisse’s “king” is the CEO of Clarisse Karasira Ltd., the singer’s managing company.