The first time I ever encountered this interviewee was at my school fair, in Haiti. On that day, after I watched him perform, well, I’ve become a huge fan. I mean, the man was my favorite at the time and he still is, honestly (lol). I used to have one of his songs, Si’m te gen zèl, always on repeat. Yes, you guessed it right! I’m bringing you Mikaben!
Mika has been seriously marking his territory in the Haitian business; he is such a versatile singer and plays many instruments. Therefore, needless to say that having the opportunity to seat down and talk to him was a great experience. I, myself, learned a lot about the person and artist .
Born to be the son of a music legend, this artist has chosen to embrace the same career path as his role model, his father. Michael Benjamin known as Mikaben was first introduced to us when he took part of the annual Christmas show hosted by Telemax with his song “Nwel Tristès”. From that moment on, he went to create such mega hits as “Ou Pati” which busted him up in the international world . Despite having a successful solo career, he decided to create a group “Krezi Mizik” with his cousins from 2004-2009. While in the group, he was still working on his solo projects. After his successful run with Krezi, he went on to collaborate, produce for bands such as CaRiMi, Kreyol la… Also, he has worked closely with Kai.
For the past few years, you haven’t had any solo albums. Why now?
I’ve wanted to drop an album since 2014. I was about to when “Kon’Beat” with Olivier Duret happened. We weren’t trying to create a band, it was mostly a label. I thought about getting “Kon’Beat” off the ground first before dropping an album, which unfortunately, didn’t go as I envisioned it. My vision didn’t work; so, to me it was a fall back, that’s why I didn’t drop the album around that time. Because of that, i kind of had to catch up for 2 years in my career. I don’t really focus on that since I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Considering the success you’ve had over the last few years, is there any regret for not dropping the album then? Even with ”Kon’beat” not being a success, you’ve been achieving a lot on your own.
No. I had said to myself that even though I wouldn’t drop any album, I would stay relevant by performing as a solo artist, producing other bands, and contributing to other successes, which I managed to do perfectly around 2012-2013; to be honest, I don’t remember the exact year. Fast forward to 2015, I dropped “Ayiti Se” and went around doing the “Ayiti Se” tour. A lot of things happened along the way. I did so many things like The Warner France contract for the “Ti pam nan”; I also went on tour with Carimi and dropped “baby I missed you” with them, which was a big success. All those things kept coming my way, so I couldn’t drop the album even though I kept working on it. I was like danm maybe it’s not the right time. That’s why I didn’t dropped the album since 2014.
What made you choose Ayibobo as your first single to announce the album?
“Ti Pam nan” was my actual first single to announce the album; But then, it got picked up by Warner and I had to wait 3 years before dropping it because they came along. For Warner to decide what they were going to do with the single, it took 1 1/2 year. They only kept the song “Ti-Pam nan” for them, in France. However, I got “released,” so I have decided to go back home and finish the album.
The album was such a success. It made it to the billboard as number 8. How does it feel to see that a lot of people were looking forward to a solo work from Mikaben?
It felt good, but I think it is only the beginning; it’s still like happening. The album finished and dropped, it was a relief. I needed to liberate myself from the songs. I needed to have other people think about them for me. You know, as an artist, you make songs for the world, not for yourself. I am happy that 18 songs got released, which is nothing compared to my library.
Whenever I ask an artist about his/her favorite songs on his/her album, they always have difficulties to do so. When I think about your album, all the songs are amazing. Would you be able to pick one?
Each of them touches me in very particular ways. However, I can tell you that “Pouki Se Li” is my top and most personal one. It was very emotional for me to write. I think it’s a beautiful song. Also, the message is about losing a friend because of cancer even if I didn’t make any reference about cancer on it. That song has been there for 8 years, now.
Is Mikaben single? Do you have any children?
Yes, I am single, and yes I have a son. He lives in Canada with his mom. It is unfortunate that I am not a full-time dad like I would like to like to be.
Have you ever been bothered by any of these rumors that are made about you? Do you ever feel the need to clarify?
No, why would I answer them to begin with.
Do you think social media is being used the wrong way, in Haiti?
Yes. It is not only in Haiti ,but all over the world, that people are making use of social media for all of the wrong reasons.
Recently, J-Perry commented under one of your pictures thanking you for being an inspiration to him and others. So, how does it feel to see some of your peers looking up to you?
It is amazing, to see this, because I have been doing this for long. You know, I have a really long career. I love J-Perry; he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is an amazing artist and I love the work that he is doing. I admire his passion for Haiti; his work reflects his hope and love for the country. I am happy to have inspired many artists. There are so many talents that are doing amazing jobs. I would love to work with them.
Were your parents supportive of your career choice?
Yes, they were very supportive. The thing is to not only have a dream but to nurture that dream, and to really work and focus on making it a reality.
Who’s your biggest inspiration in life?
My dad is my hero. He has always been my teacher throughout my life and career.
A lot of your peers live overseas, why did you choose to stay in Haiti?
Haiti needs me the most, not them. They are okay over there. My young Haitian people need me; the kids are the future. So, Haiti is where it’s at. Haiti is my home and peace. Those other countries have a lot to offer, but if we all leave, what about them here?
How would you describe your style as a singer?
Caribbean pop. I don’t make music only for Haiti. My hope is that my music touches people who are not part of my culture.
Collaboration wise, who would you like to work with nationally and internationally?
Have you ever been to college?
No, I have not.
Do you regret not going, at all?
No, I do not regret it at all. Education is not only about going to college. It’s about being street smart and learning about finance. The biggest mistake people are making is not teaching young kids about how to manage their money for later in life. There are so many ways you can educate yourself, like reading books, and going to seminars.
What is a day off looks like in Mika’s life? Do you ever turn off your phone?
It is rare that I have a day off. My phone is never off, which I think is one of many people’s addiction, especially with social media. I love to watch Netflix when I am not working (haha).
What are you binge- watching on Netflix, now?
House of cards, Blacklist and El Chapo are my favorites, for the moment.
Why didn’t you fully join KAI?
Well, it was important for me to know that I can always do Mikaben. I knew if I was fully part of Kai, then Mikaben would no longer exist. I would have to be fully comitted to Kai, and that’s something I didn’t want to do. Though, make no mistakes “M gen clef Kai mwen nan menm, m ka rantre lèm vle”.
3 words that describe you?
Love, Legacy (that I would love to leave behind), and Label.
Your album promotion was done tastefully. It was very well thought, and the album cover was amazing. Why go all that length for this album?
I knew I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to make sure that I reach anyone with the album not just one type of people. I knew the kids were the ones I wanted to mostly enjoy the album, so we decided to drive all over Haiti to speak to them and promote it. It was interesting to see that some of them didn’t know who I was. While I was tired with all the driving around, I was very happy with the outcome. I made sure they can afford it. My team worked hard on this album; they really helped my vision to come to life.
What is the best advice you can give our youth about the entertainment business or anything for that matter?
Always be willing to learn more about any business that you choose to go in. Don’t just stop learning because you good at it. I learned a lot of instruments because I didn’t want to be good just at one thing. Always be willing to learn from people, especially those behind you, because there is always something that you can learn from anyone. I am honored that people see me as an inspiration to them, but I am also learning from them as well.
Do you think it’s really sad about how Yole D. had to ask for financial help ? She’s considered to be a legend .
Yes it’s really sad, if we start actually buying her songs then she will be fine. Honestly, how many Haitian people in the world have access to iTunes ? At least 1 million. Let’s say that 200,000 of them buy my album it’s money for me . It’s an example. I’m not talking only about me but also for all the other musicians .
Where do you think we have failed as a society in Haiti ?
I think , first we’ve failed ourselves because Self- deception is our biggest flaw. As human being, it’s the most common desease. When you are always trying to blame somebody for your own mistakes. When You are always trying to put the responsibility on other people, the government, God or whatever. But we are responsible for our future, what we want to leave behind, our lives. Unfortunately, one of the biggest flaw again is self-deception. You got to have self- leadership, instead of having self-deception. Stop making excuses and start finding reasons to. And I think that’s where we fail Haiti the most, it’s through self-deception.
Anything you would like to close the interview with that we might have left out ?
The thing I’m going to say to anyone in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora is , I don’t think you can imagine how big of heroes your Haitian artists are. Because, we work day and night to bring you good music, to always look good and look shiny or whatever you want to call it . Because the truth is we are trying to keep up with the big artists in the world, that’s what the reality is . Even though I’m not going to be a Chris Brown or Jason Derulo, but they are international standards we are trying to keep up with. It takes a lot of hard work and we don’t get rewarded in Haiti. There’s no copyrights, we don’t get paid when our songs get played in the radio. Unfortunately, most of the time the artist have to pay the radio to get their song on rotationo . It should have been the other way around. I don’t think you imagine how big of heroes we are as artists. Please, encourage your artists, go buy their songs instead of sharing them through WhatsApp. We have to work hard to keep YOU satisfied and YOU criticize us that we don’t do enough. By sharing our songs on WhatsApp for free, you are being unfair and inconsiderate. Encourage us by sharing our links to be streamed on iTunes, Spotify etc. The world right now is all digital, stop sharing things on your YouTube page . I’ve always said that and will always be a believer of that: “to me, Haitian artists, Music (Haitian music) and culture are a huge piece of how Haiti will or can come out to be”. Once we start making money, then we can make a difference. There’s no way we can make a difference in our country if we don’t have money; it is impossible. The difference that we want to see can’t be made without funds.
Not only I would like to thank Mikaben for this interview but a special thanks to his amazing manager Lionel for working closely with me! The 14 years old girl in me who used to listen to Mikaben was doing so many backflips lol because not in a million years this she see this happening! Thank you for being so respectful and having me over for this interview! I am looking forward to keep watching you grow and making your Mark in this world !
Lady Sergine 💋🌹