This is a developing story. We’ll update it as confirmed information comes to light.
UPDATE – 10/19, 9:45 am: Michael Benjamin’s cousin, Frederick Dupoux, was released after being kidnapped, Benjamin’s brother, Lionel Benjamin Jr., announced on Twitter on Oct. 18.
“Thank you Mika for watching over Fredo until he got home today,” Lionel Jr. said. “We will keep putting you in the light so that you go well. I love you very much. Go in peace!”
UPDATE – 10/18, 4:30 pm: Singer Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin did not eat or sleep well for three days after hearing that his cousin, Frederick Dupoux, was kidnapped in mid-October, singer Joseph “Ti Jo Zenny” Zenny Jr. told a crowd at Accor Arena in Paris on Oct. 17.
Yet, Benjamin still made the decision to perform at a Carimi concert at Accor Arena on Oct. 15. Benjamin appeared unwell when he was getting on stage. He leaned on the stairs’ handrails before wiping his face with a Haitian flag around his neck.
Benjamin performed “Ou pati,” or “You left” one of his most known songs. Seconds later, Benjamin fatally collapsed while walking off stage. He was 41.
“Mika died while working on stage,” Zenny said, pointing to where Benjamin collapsed. “The guy died for Haiti, for us.”
Haitian communities worldwide are reeling following reports Haitian musician Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin died after collapsing on stage immediately after a performance with popular Haitian band, Carimi, during an Oct. 15 anniversary reunion performance in Paris.
Benjamin, who was affectionately known as “Mika,” was 41 years old. Among those mourning him are his pregnant wife Vanessa Fanfan, whom he had said is due to deliver their child in December 2022, and his father Lionel “Père Noël” Benjamin, also a musician, known as the “Haitian Santa Claus” for his popular Christmas song, Abdenwèl.
The cause of death has yet to be verified, though reports say the younger Benjamin died from cardiac arrest.
“He was a musical genius and that’s what we just lost,” said Alex Abellard, the maestro of Zin, the Brooklyn-based band that was one of the founders of the New Generation Konpa in the late 1980s.
“His writing was very original,” Abellard said. “Just imagine not having that anymore in a country that’s missing so much now. That’s a big loss for our culture globally.”
Benjamin’s musical career spanned more than 20 years, after he rose to fame in Haiti and abroad in the early 2000s with major hits like “Ou Pati” and popular collaborations with fellow Haitian Music Industry (HMI) stars like Carimi, Alan Cave and DJ Michael Brun. His range of skills came in full display after Konpa Kreyol, a popular band, split into two groups — Kreyol La and Krezi Mizik — and the latter recruited Benjamin to be its lead singer.
Benjamin’s vocal range made Krezi a tour de force in the Haitian Music Industry. He sang melodies and could captivate a carnival audience, moving throngs of revelers from right to left as they waved their bandanas in near delirium.
Abellard said he remembered Zin touring with Benjamin in Martinique and Guadeloupe. His personality was magnetic, fans adored him and he in turn, took the time to interact with the fans.
“It just crushes me. It crushes me,” said Abellard late Saturday, his voice croaking. “Mikaben was one of the most diverse artists that we had. He played all genres. He wasn’t stuck to the Haitian culture. He would bring whatever color he would get all over the world. He was an orgianial . We lost a very talented artist, a very talented producer. He worked with everybody.”
Benjamin is the son of Lionel Benjamin, affectionately known as the “Haitian Santa Claus” for his popular Christmas song, Abdenwèl. Benjamin told The Haitian Times in a December 2021 interview that he relished music from a young age and enjoyed watching his father rehearse at home.
“I used to try to find the harmony of the melody of what he was singing,” Benjamin said. “I used to observe him when he sang live to see how he evolved on stage.”
Benjamin said his father bought a guitar for the house when he was six, and he used to play it the most out of his other two siblings. Benjamin’s father later taught him how to play the guitar when he was 14.
“Music grew in me naturally and I wanted to adopt it on my own,” Benjamin said. “I’m not going to lie, my fingers used to hurt when I used to play the guitar but I never gave up.”
Benjamin is survived by Fanfan, their daughter and a son from a previous marriage. Benjamin married Fanfan in November 2020 and had a daughter one year later. According to his Instagram posts, the pair was expecting their second child in December 2022.
In his last tweet, in French, Benjamin wished his ‘older brothers’ Carimi good luck at the Paris concert and thanked the band for opening doors for musicians like him who came after the trio.
‘Bonne chance a mes grands frères pour ce soir ! Merci d’avoir ouvert la voie pour nous autres qui vous suivons! Nous vous aimons! Haiti vous aime beaucoup! Que l’amour et la lumière vous accompagnent durant le concert ou des milliers de fans seront en Harmonie parfaite avec vous’
Reactions to Mikaben’s death
On social media, Haitian celebrities and fans alike, shocked by videos of Benjamin’s last moments on stage, began sending condolences and sharing how the younger man’s music impacted their lives and represented Haitian culture.