It was an evening punctuated by an array of emotions as we gathered to commemorate the life and work of the illustrious Haitian singer-songwriter Michael "Mikaben" Benjamin, our dear friend who left us all too soon. This event, organized on what would have been Mikaben's 42nd birthday, was curated by Chriss Rimpel of RAD MuziK, bringing together the artists who shared a special bond with Mikaben and others who admired his brilliance from afar.
The night was alive with the unique energy and vibrancy that Mikaben radiated during his lifetime. His legacy was carried forth by an ensemble of distinguished performers, who brought their unique flair to the evening, yet seamlessly unified by their shared love for Mikaben. The lineup was a testament to Mikaben's influence, featuring talents from across the Caribbean and beyond, from Guadeloupe-born dancehall artist Admiral T to Mikaben's sister Mélodie and father, Lionel Benjamin Senior.
As the event's MC, I had the privilege of guiding this journey of remembrance and celebration. Introducing each act was a poignant reminder of the diverse talents that Mikaben had touched with his music.
The evening began with Richard Cave's heartfelt rendition of "Baby I Miss You," a song originally featuring Mikaben with the legendary group Carimi. This set the tone for the evening, a mix of nostalgia and celebration that carried through the event. DJ Stakz followed with a vibrant DJ set that got everyone's spirits up.
Then, J Perry graced the stage. His rendition of "Ti Pam Nan," a song he originally performed with Mikaben, was a touching tribute to their friendship and collaboration. Obed followed with a passionate "Lyric All" performance, a Mikaben track that resonated with many in the crowd.
Talie and Masterbrain then performed "Kenbe-m," another hit from Mikaben, before Talie went solo with her song "Kè Poze." Lionel Benjamin, Mikaben's father, followed with his song "Ou Kite-m W ale." The emotion was palpable as he welcomed Melodie Benjamin, Mikaben's sister, to the stage. Together, they performed "Yon Ti Souf Pou Ayiti," their harmonies a touching testament to the bond they shared with Mikaben. Melodie then performed "Si-m Te Gen Zel," a powerful moment with many in the audience singing.
Phyllisia Ross took the stage next, performing her hit song "Only For You," which was produced by Mikaben. She also performed Mikaben's hit "Loving My Life," reminding us of his performer and producer talents. J Perry returned to the stage, this time alongside Admiral T, for a performance of "Aba Bla Bla," a crowd favorite that had everyone on their feet.
Martine Marseille followed with a moving rendition of "Tout Lwanj se Pou ou", Mikaben's last song released posthumously. Kenny Ayiti then performed "Fe Lapli," a song he did with Mikaben, a further testament to Mikaben's far-reaching influence on the Haitian music scene. Mickaël Guirand took the stage to perform "Fanm Sa a Move," a song produced by Mikaben for Carimi, before performing Mikaben's hit "Ou Pati."
The grand finale was a sight to behold, as all the artists came together onstage for a powerful rendition of Mikaben's anthem of national pride, "Ayiti Se." The unity and shared respect for Mikaben's legacy was tangible at that moment, a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for his homeland's music.
The grand exit was equally memorable, with the RaRa Band performing in the audience, their infectious rhythms bringing the evening to a joyous end.
I want to thank Jordana Leigh, Vice President of Artistic Programming, the Lincoln Center Staff, and RAD Muzik for their tireless efforts in making this event a success. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the artists who participated, each who brought their unique voice and talent to the evening, and the sponsors whose generous support made this event possible.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to MC this remarkable celebration. The night was a testament to the power of music in bringing people together and healing to the legacy of Mikaben. His voice may have been silenced, but his music continues to echo, reminding us that Mikaben is not truly gone. He lives on in the hearts of those he touched, every note he sang, every beat he produced, and every melody he created. His spirit continues to resonate through the many lives he touched and the music community he loved so dearly. As we continue to navigate through our lives without Mikaben physically present, we will forever carry his memory in our hearts, his music in our souls, and his legacy as our guiding light. Here's to Mikaben, a true legend whose melody will forever play on.