Haitian singer, composer, guitarist and producer Michael Benjamin, affectionately known as Mikaben, has died at the age of 41 after collapsing on stage in Parise while performing live. A chilling video has emerged that captures the moment Mikaben collapses on stage while performing being greeted by a jubilant audience.
The incident happened on Saturday while Mikaben was performing with the Haitian konpa band CaRiMi. Mikaben, one of the music icons of Haiti, "died after suffering a seizure on stage and despite the efforts of emergency services," the venue announced on Twitter. Prime Minister Ariel Henry led Haitians in mourning the death of the icon.
Mikaben, a guest of the Haitian group Carimi, was performing at the 20,000-seat Accor Arena in eastern Paris on Saturday night when tragedy struck. Moments after he was greeted by the audience and started performing, he collapsed on stage leaving thousands of his fans shocked.
Frantz Duval, the editor of a Haitian daily, first informed followers that something was awry as the situation unfolded live on Twitter.
Singer Mickael Guirand then asked the crowd to disperse. "End of the concert. We must evacuate the room," Guirand said.
"It's very complicated. We need prayers."
It is still unclear what exactly happened. The video shows Mikaben walking off stage from the concert when he unexpectedly collapses. While he was being tended to, the area around the event was being cleared, indicating that he was being given CPR, according to sources.
He "died after suffering a seizure on stage and despite the efforts of emergency services," the venue announced on Twitter.
"I'm shocked by the sudden death of the young and very talented artist Michael Benjamin 'Mikaben'," Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry wrote on Twitter.
"We have lost a major figure in Haitian music."
A Star Is Gone
Mikaben, son of famed singer Lionel Benjamin, was born in Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in 1981 and was well-known in the local music scene as a singer, writer and producer. He was one of the most popular singers, composers, guitarists, and producers whose hit "Ayti Se" touched millions in the aftermath of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake.
Mikaben was also a part of a number of popular Cairimi songs, such as "Baby I Missed You" and "Fanm sa Move."
Hours before he died, he posted a video to his more than one million Instagram followers from inside the Accor stadium, grinning and applauding the crowd.
Haiti-born rapper Wyclef Jean, of the hip hop group The Fugees, called him "one of the most influential and inspirational young artists of our generation" in an interview with The Miami Herald newspaper.
"I'm in disbelief," singer Roberto Martino told the outlet. Martino told the Miami Herald that he spoke to Mikaben just before the latter hit the stage on Saturday night.
"This is somebody I was working with for years and considered a brother, a good friend. We talked almost everyday. We have a chat together."
"He was so happy. He couldn't wait to get on that stage with CaRiMi. It was one of his biggest accomplishments in life. It's a band that he idolized," Martino told the outlet.
Mikaben was married to Vanessa Fanfan, and the two were expecting a second child. In addition, Mikaben had a son from a previous relationship. His wife posted a message thanking people for their prayers but asking them not to call her.
"I'm in no condition to talk. I lost my other half and have no words," she wrote.
Mikaben began writing when he was 15 years old, and he continued to improve his craft while enrolled in college in Montreal, Canada. He later entered Christmas Telemax, a well-known song competition, and placed fourth with his song "Nwel Tristes" (Sad Christmas).
He would soon start a solo career and building a fan following in Haiti, Europe, the French Caribbean, and the US. He released his second album in 2004, and a year later he and his cousin David Dupoux started the konpa group Krezi Mizik.
They would release two albums before Mikaben, a multilingual singer who also sang in English, would decide to go back being a solo artist in 2009. He continued to perform solo, but he would also collaborate with other musicians, including T-Vice and CaRiMi, as a producer, touring with the latter and even filling in on occasion.
He recorded "Ayti Se" (Haiti is) after the 2010 earthquake and performed it in front of former president Bill Clinton and a multitude of mourners during a commemoration of the catastrophe that claimed over 300,000 lives and left 1.5 million people homeless. The song and accompanying video served as a reminder of the nation's beauty.