Diaspora

Fans mourn death of Haitian superstar – The Miami Times

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Updated: November 8, 2022 @ 11:33 am
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A woman stands before a memorial wall at Little Haiti Cultural Center commemorating Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin’s legacy.
Sunderl Bouzi, a Miami resident and Mikaben fan, attends a memorial at Little Haiti Cultural Center for the Haitian singer, who died unexpectedly last weekend.
Sounds of Little Haiti organizers held a musical tribute and memorial for Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin Friday at Little Haiti Cultural Center.
Hundreds of fans release balloons at Little Haiti Cultural Center Friday evening during a memorial for Haitian artist Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin.
Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin performing with Haiti’s flag draped over his shoulder during for the Bayo 2022 Tour in New York.
Harmonik band members perform a rendition of Michael Benjamin’s “Sim Te Gen Zel” (“If I had Wings”) while wearing shirts that bore the late artist’s face, during a memorial at Little Haiti Cultural Center in the singer’s honor.
Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin receiving an award from the Haitian Chamber of Commerce for “Outstanding Performance and Dedication Excellence.”
Fan Donald Pollas poses with Mikaben after a performance sometime last year at Little Haiti Cultural Center.

A woman stands before a memorial wall at Little Haiti Cultural Center commemorating Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin’s legacy.
Haitians across the globe are still reeling over the death of their beloved superstar, Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin.
Benjamin was scheduled to headline a breast cancer fundraiser concert in partnership with Broward-based clothing store, Kouka’s Closet, Oct. 22.
The singer, who inherited his musical genius from his musician father, Lionel Benjamin, was memorialized over the weekend in Indiana, Georgia, South Florida, Montréal and his hometown of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Sounds of Little Haiti organizers held a musical tribute and memorial for Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin Friday at Little Haiti Cultural Center.
“Truly, it was his music that made people love him,” Roselin Benjamin, Mikaben’s mother, told Haitian reporter Maxcy Céant on Sunday. “It was also the love that he had for everybody … We the Benjamin family have a mission to do everything in our power to make sure that this country changes.”
His sister, Melodie Benjamin, also shared a few words.
“All the dreams that he had were for the betterment of Haiti,” she said. “We’re going to continue to work to make sure those dreams are realized.”
The family announced over the weekend that a funeral for the late singer affectionately known as “Mika” will be held in Miami Sunday, Nov. 6, followed by a mass in Haiti.
Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin performing with Haiti’s flag draped over his shoulder during for the Bayo 2022 Tour in New York.
After a spokesperson for the family told the media that a funeral would not be held in Haiti, Lionel Benjamin Jr. confirmed that the deceased Benjamin will indeed return to his home country.
Considering the star’s impact on Haiti and in the music industry, it was no surprise that South Florida fans showed up in droves at Little Haiti Cultural Center last Friday for an all-white musical tribute to Benjamin.
Attendees received yellow roses from event organizers to place on a memorial wall upon arrival.
Hundreds of fans release balloons at Little Haiti Cultural Center Friday evening during a memorial for Haitian artist Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin.
Harmonik, the three-member Haitian konpa band, signaled the memorial’s balloon release with a rendition of Benjamin’s “Sim Te Gen Zel” (“If I had Wings”), a hit single describing how one person would go to the ends of the Earth taking on many forms to eliminate evil and bring love, peace and hope to a troubled world.
Marleine Bastien, a prominent activist in the Haitian diaspora and executive director of Family Action Network Movement, was among various leaders who stopped by the memorial to pay their respects. She even performed an original poem honoring Benjamin’s legacy.
The Nancy St. Leger Danse Ensemble performed to the tune of his “Ayiti Se,” a nostalgic song released in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that decimated the island nation, which praises the very food, sights and rich experiences that make up Haitian culture.
Harmonik band members perform a rendition of Michael Benjamin’s “Sim Te Gen Zel” (“If I had Wings”) while wearing shirts that bore the late artist’s face, during a memorial at Little Haiti Cultural Center in the singer’s honor.
“The world had Michael Jackson but Haiti had Michael Benjamin,” said poet Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughn on Friday, painting a picture of what he meant to the Haitian community. “See, it’s not how long you’ve been here, it’s what you do while you are here. You’re going to be born, you’re going to die and in between is your dash. If Mikaben’s dash could talk, it would say job well done.”
Born in 1981, Benjamin studied his father’s creative process intently. Other musical inspirations included Jackson, Bob Marley, Beanie Man, Wyclef Jean, T-Vice, Tabou Combo, Alan Cava, Sweet Micky and Carimi.
He attended schools in Pétion-Ville, Haiti, where he thrived in literature and language arts. He wrote his first song at 15.
Benjamin moved out of the country to study abroad in Montréal. That was also where his music career kicked off after producing an original piece that won fourth place at an annual Christmas song competition organized by a Canadian television station.
His first studio album, “Vwayaj”(“Journey”), was released in 2000, and gained recognition from music producer Fabrice Rouzier, who included the “Ou Pati”(“You Left”) single from the album in a folk music project.
Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin receiving an award from the Haitian Chamber of Commerce for “Outstanding Performance and Dedication Excellence.”
Four years later, a second album bearing Benjamin’s stage name was released and catapulted the young star across international music festival stages.
In 2005, he moved back to Haiti to form the Krezi Mizik konpa group with his cousin David Dupoux before returning to a solo music career in 2009.
Success quickly followed Benjamin as a polylingual singer, songwriter and producer who skillfully mastered jazz, reggae, dance hall, konpa, zouk, and R&B genres.
Benjamin even partnered with soca artist Kevin Lyttle and dance hall singer Elephant Man to produce “Caribbean Ting” as an anthem for Carnival in 2018.
Fan Donald Pollas poses with Mikaben after a performance sometime last year at Little Haiti Cultural Center.
He once told The Miami Times that his music, seen by many as love letters to Haiti and its people, was a way of uplifting a nation that was overlooked and undervalued.
“I’d rather put things in a divine light where there are positive outcomes,” he said, explaining why he felt an obligation to spread hope. “The songs are embedded with the messages that we need as a Haitian people.”
Benjamin fatally collapsed on stage Oct. 15 while delivering one of the biggest performances of his life in Paris, for Carimi’s one-day tour celebrating the band’s 20th anniversary despite its 2016 breakup.
“I watched Mikaben fall with a microphone [in his hand] and a flag draped around his neck,” said Haitian American entrepreneur Jhonson Napoleon at the memorial. “He died at 41 but I don’t think there was a more poetic way for an artist like him to go out … Mika, everywhere there are Haitians, we celebrate you.”
“As an artist, he was probably looking forward to that performance and just had to show up, even though he was troubled by one of his cousins being kidnapped,” said Donald Pollas, a fan who attended the memorial. “He just had to be at that place, unless he was hospitalized or jailed. And knowing that hurts. He was so talented and very humble.”
Pollas, who met the singer in person recently after a performance in Miami, has been a fan for decades and recalled how Benjamin never turned his back on his country, often going back during periods of intense turmoil.
“He was a megastar. Even people here loved him,” said Pollas. “In one of his albums, ‘Ayiti San Manti,’ he brought up things that weren’t working for the country for us to think about and change, but that didn’t happen.”
“It’s like when Kobe died,” he continued. “You hear the news but you don’t want to believe it. I still don’t believe it, but I have to accept it. It’s devastating no matter how you look at it.”
Sunderl Bouzi, who grew up listening to Benjamin, said she, too, was in disbelief.
Sunderl Bouzi, a Miami resident and Mikaben fan, attends a memorial at Little Haiti Cultural Center for the Haitian singer, who died unexpectedly last weekend.
“No one expected something like this to happen,” she said. “Coming to the memorial [was] my way of giving him my support one last time. He’s someone who always put our country first and talked about the realities of Haiti.”
Benjamin leaves behind his pregnant wife and two children. The couple was one month shy of celebrating their second wedding anniversary.
A GoFundMe account has been created in Benjamin’s memory. With more than $169,000 raised already, the funds will go toward his children’s college education and the Ti-Souf nonprofit foundation that supports schools and teachers in need.
“Death is a part of life so all we can do is spread love,” said Sunderl Bouzi, a Miami resident and fan who vowed to honor Benjamin’s legacy by giving musicians like him their flowers while they are still alive. “And appreciate people and love them with the time we have.”
South Florida memorializes Mikaben in Little Haiti
November 2-8
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Periodicals Postage paid at Buena Vista Station, Miami, FL 33127-0200 United States Postal Service Postal Registration Number: 344340 as required for public notices per section 50.011(1)(e), F.S.
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