The sudden passing of Haitian singer ‘Mikaben’ leaves a big void in the music world

Screenshot of the late Haitian musician Michael ‘Mikaben’ Benjamin taken from the YouTube video of one of his famous songs ‘Ayiti Se'(Haiti Is).

Michael “Mikaben” Benjamin (or “Mika,” as he is fondly called, the well-loved Haitian musician who was perhaps best known for his uplifting song “Ayti Se” (Haiti Is) — a love song to his country released two years after the country's devastating 2010 earthquakedied suddenly on the evening of October 15. The 41-year-old singer passed out after performing with the Haitian konpa band CaRiMi in a concert in Paris, of a suspected cardiac arrest.

The shock and grief of his fans, which began with concert-goers, soon spread to social media channels, where the symbolism of the singer dying while carrying the Haitian flag was not lost on his followers:

Bertrhude Albert interpreted his holding of the Haitian flag this way:

The news was difficult for many to process, especially because the singer was so young and vibrant. One Twitter user even suggested “Mika” should be afforded a state funeral.

Giorgio LaGaffe, who attended the concert, tweeted:

Many Twitter users sent messages of “Ale an pè” — Haitian Kreyòl for “Go in peace,” while others acknowledged him as a “Haitian musical legend” whose last performance was “unforgettable“:

Last song. Last moments. #ripmikaben #mikaben #carimi

As the son of the famous Haitian singer Lionel Benjamin, music was always part of Mika's life. He began composing songs when he was a teenager, and learned to play several instruments, including the piano, guitar, bass, and drums. He made his first foray into public performance via “Christmas Telemax,” a popular talent competition, where he won fourth place with his song “Nwel Tristes” (Sad Christmas):

Mika would continue to write and record as a solo performer, and his songs steadily gained popularity not only in Haiti but throughout the French Caribbean, in Europe and in the United States:

A year after the release of his eponymous album in 2004, he formed the konpa group Krezi Mizik, with whom he recorded and toured until 2009, when he resumed his solo career. However, he continued to explore collaborations with other acts, including regional talents like Jamaican dancehall's Elephant Man and Vincentian soca star Kevin Lyttle.

In the midst of the grief over the world's loss of a musical talent, however, some social media users considered how traumatic Mika's death must be for his family. The singer's wife, Vanessa, is due to give birth to their second child together this December. He also had a child from an earlier relationship:

While sadness was evident, the overwhelming sentiment about Mika's life and music, however, was one of gratitude, with one Twitter user suggesting he died doing what he loved:

Sandy Lizaire-Duff got emotional, saying:

Jean Webens Jecrois, however, tried to hold on to hope amidst the tragedy:

Haiti — and the rest of the world — may not have Mikaben anymore, but they will always have his music.

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