Haitian singer Michael Benjamin, known as Mikaben, is dead


Mikaben’s Facebook page

He was one of the most talented musicians of his generation whose ode to his country – Ayti Se (Eastern Haiti) – Two years after its most devastating tragedy, the 2010 earthquake touched the hearts of Haitians around the world.

Michael Benjamin, better known by his stage name Mikaben, died Saturday after collapsing on stage in Paris while performing with Haitian konpa band Carimi. He was 41 years old.

“It’s a shock,” Haiti-born, Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Wyclef Jeany told the Miami Herald.

Jean said he and Mikaben were hanging out together in New York with artist Michael Brun in Bayo. Brun had brought Jean as a special guest, and he then brought Mikaben and the other artists for a jam session.

“All I remembered was his smile,” Jean said, recalling how he hugged him and said, “He’s one of the most influential and most influential young artists around. inspiring of our generation.”

Mikaben’s death was first confirmed in a tweet by social media influencer Carel Pedre and Frantz Duval, editor of Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

The attempt to revive it went live on Twitter as Duval, tweeting live from the concert, alerted fans that something was wrong and singer Mickael Guirand asked everyone to leave. “End of the concert. We must evacuate the room, announces Mickael Guirand. “It’s very complicated,” he said. “We need prayers” for Mikaben, said singer Carimi. People are passed out in the room.

The artist apparently passed out after finishing performing and left the stage. Later, Pedre, who was at the concert, said he was getting CPR. When he confirmed his passing, the Haitian music world, including his fellow artists and Carimi executives, was in shock.

“I’m in disbelief,” singer Roberto Martino said through tears. “He’s someone I worked with for years and considered a brother, a good friend. We spoke almost every day. We chat together.

Martino told the Herald that he and Mikaben spoke just before going on stage in Paris. “He was so happy. He couldn’t wait to get on stage with Carimi. It was one of his greatest accomplishments in life. It’s a band he idolized. I am at a loss for words. I’m broken.

“Mika was one of the most talented artists I have ever met in my life,” added Martino. “One of the most humble guys; you never heard him be angry or insult anyone. It’s just sad; unbelievable.”

Born in Port-au-Prince to famed singer Lionel Benjamin, Mikaben was one of Haiti’s most talented young singers and songwriters. He started writing at age 15 and continued to hone his skills while attending college in Montreal, Canada. He would later participate in a popular song contest, Christmas Telemax, and won fourth place with his song “Nwel Sad” (Sad Christmas).

Soon he would embark on a solo career, building a fanbase in Haiti, Europe, the French Caribbean and the United States. In 2004, he released his second album, and a year later, he formed the konpa group Krezi Mizik with his cousin, David Dupoux. They would release two albums before Mikaben decided to become a solo artist again in 2009. While he would continue to perform solo, he would also work as a producer with several artists such as T-VIce and Carimi, while touring with this last. and even fill.

After the 2010 earthquake, he recorded “Ayti Se” (Haiti East) and performed it in front of former President Bill Clinton and a crowd of mourners at a commemoration of the disaster that killed over of 300,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. The song and later the video recalled the beauty of the country.

Always approachable and kind, Mikaben drew inspiration for the song from the tragedy itself and a desire to remind Haitians that they were bigger than what had happened. He sang about the different cultural elements that could be found across the country that Haitians could relate to, no matter where they came from or where they lived.

“The song is truly amazing,” his brother Lionel told the Herald in 2012, “a reminder to all Haitians and we want all Haitians to know the song and remember to always support the country!”

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post after the quake, Mikaben said he was in the mountains when the quake hit. He didn’t think it was that bad, but soon realized it was as he drove through the streets of the capital where a billboard bearing his face was sometimes the only thing left. standing in a street.

He will soon found an association, Ti Souf Ayiti, with the support of the Ministry of Culture. Along with other artists who had survived the devastation, he visited refugee camps, hospitals and orphanages to perform.

Saturday’s concert in Paris was one of the biggest events for any Haitian band, drawing thousands of fans who turned on cellphones to energetic performances by Mikaben, Guirand and Richard Cave.

Jacqueline Charles has reported on Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean for the Miami Herald for over a decade. A Pulitzer Prize finalist for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she received the 2018 Maria Moors Cabot Prize, the most prestigious award for coverage of the Americas.

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