Mika Benjamin, "Ayiti Se" Music Video + Lyrics

Whatever problems Haiti may have, and whatever it may be lacking, it’s not in want when it comes to songs devoted to it. It seems that no Haitian artist or band’s album is complete without a Haiti-themed song. So when the singer-songwriter-producer Mika Benjamin emerges with a song entitled “Ayiti Se” [Haiti Is], it isn’t much a surprise. What is a surprise, however, is that a subject like Haiti that’s been treated over and over in songs can have new life breathed into it—though it it yet another Haiti-themed song.

A song like “Ayiti Se” didn’t really need a video; as it has made a statement without one. But since it does have one, oh, the more the better. Like having nice, mouth-watering ice cream on an already well-baked and delicious cake.

The video is directed by Ralph Dupoux. The sharp memory of Mika Benjamin career experts shall recall that this is the same Mr. Dupoux who is credited as photographer on the sleeves of Mika’s first album as having shot the cover of his debut record. It was a memorable album cover, and the video he helms for “Ayiti Se” is equally memorable. The “Ayiti Se” video begins with several women washing at the center of a river. How appropriate. This isn’t washing machine laundry, people, but hands-on, vigorous hand scrubbing of dirty clothes. It isn’t the sort of washing you do just in your backyard, but one you freely undertake in public. There’s no shame in the faces of the women, or annoyance at having piles and piles of clothes to wash, but this overstated glee, as if there exists this dual sense of relief and joy at this deep cleansing. Good riddance dirty national laundry!

The intro of the song has some wistful whistling by the singer, followed by the first couple of verses; then the viewer is hit with images after images, a collage of sort of the simple pleasures of Haiti—street walking roots bands, fried goat bites—the little moments that have big significance, and the lyrics tag the characteristics that makes Haiti, Haiti. There’s a salute to the flora and fauna, and places of cultural importance to Haiti, its flavorful cuisine, its plains and mountains, its peaks—all the things that makes it unique.

The song is a sort of tour de force for Benjamin, the most recent triumph of his career, and welcomed rain after an artistic drought. The lyrics are endlessly poetic, as if “Ayiti Se” were a multi-verse poem set to music. There are countless geographical references that are also historical. For instance, the mention of Macaya’s Peak…Makaya (also spelled Macaya), is a reference to a peak in Haiti whose name may have inspired the peak. According to The World of the Haitian Revolution by David Patrick Geggus and Norman Fiering, Macaya was a Congo-born insurgent in 1791 Haiti. Albert Schwartz, a visitor who studied Haiti’s rare species, also reported that Macaya is a butterfly species in Western Haiti. The book Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia cites Saut D’eau (Creole spelling Sodo) as a breathtaking waterfall, while Marmelade is somewhere in the north of Haiti. One of its past claims of glory is the fact that at least two of its citizens in the 1820s and the 1850s respectively, were nobles in the court of Henri Christophe and Faustin Soulouque (Count of Marmelade, Duke of Marmelade).

There is a lyric in the song I find quite telling. At one point, Benjamin sings, “Ayiti se tè vodou” [Haiti is the land of Vodun]. A few verses later, he croons: “Ayiti se tè Ogou” [Haiti is Ogou’s Land]. But, who or what is Ogou? Richard D. E. Burton in the book Afro-Creole: Power, Opposition, and Play in the Caribbean has the answer for us. According to Burton, he is “a warrior god of undoubted African origin”. In this same book, Burton quotes Karen McCarthy Brown who labeled Ogou as being “not merely a figure in Haitian religion”, but a warrior of sort throughout Haiti’s history, who reportedly even inspired Haiti’s national flag.

“Ayiti Se” is going to be one of those perennial songs, that touches the heart. One of the striking things regarding the ballad is that its beauty is not defined by a boisterous beat, a driving melody necessarily; it’s the sheer beauty of the lyrics, their simplicity that makes the song a knockout. So, whether “Ayiti Se” had been accompanied by lonely strings of guitars or Haiti’s entire population doing the background vocals would have mattered little. The song is like a woman who’d be beautiful without makeup, or a man who’d be handsome without dandy clothes. The power of the song is in its lyrics, so to speak.

Professor of Duke University who lectures on Haitian Creole attests, “The singer expresses his love for his country and says that he will never leave the country for any reason. He also describes Haiti with all the good things the country carries with it.”

“Ayiti Se” is definitely a contribution to modern Creole poetry. The song will have you scrambling for reference books, for history books and for your advanced Haitian Creole dictionary. It doesn’t try to harp on nostalgia—on the good old days that Haitians often laud, but ponders on what is—the right now—and what can be. The video closes with a pregnant woman joining the singer in an embrace on top of the peaks of a mountain. His hand caresses the curves of her abdomen. There is a new life within, and therefore new possibilities. The future is bright, indeed, not just for Haiti, but for Mika Benjamin too.

Ayiti Se

Ayiti se bèl lanmè se bèl montay ak bèl rivyè
Se bèl plaj ak pye kokoye bèl peyizaj ak bèl koulè
Ayiti se sant kafe kap monte nan nen m’ le maten
Se sant lawouze ki fèk poze pou flè dizè ka boujonnen
Ayiti se Basen Ble Kaskad Pichon avèk Sodo
Se Akaden La Sitadèl se Labadi ak Marigo
Ayiti se Lavale se Pòsali ak Zabriko
Se Mòn Lasèl Pik Makaya se Mamlad ak Mòn Pilbowo

Haiti is a pretty sea, a stunning mountain with beautiful rivers
It’s pretty beaches with coconut trees, lovely landscapes with bright colors
Haiti is the aroma of coffee that goes up my nostrils at dawn
It’s the scent of dew drops that’s set for the budding flowers of 10 o’clock of the morning
Haiti is Basin Blue, the Pichon waterfalls along with Saut D’eau
It’s the Arcadins isles, the Citadelle castle, it’s Labadie and Marigot
Haiti is La Valée, Macaya’s Peak, Marmelade and Pilboreau mountains

Ayiti se yon dous makòs se yon ponyen pistach griye
S’on ji kole ki pou banm fòs s’on boutèy kola ki byen glase
Ayiti s’on bon griyo s’on bon fritay on bon taso
S’on bon legim avèk sirik s’on bon diri avek lalo
Ayiti s’on bon bouyon s’on soup joumou a tout piman
S’on bon kasav avèk manba
Ke ou tranpe nan akasan
Ayiti s’on bon donmbwèy kap marinen nan yon bon sòs pwa
S’on bwakochon on bon kleren Ayiti s’on bon kafe diswa

Haiti is a sweet and enticing home-made candy bar, it’s a handful of grilled peanuts
It’s a creamy smoothie that gives energy, it’s an enticing bottle of ice cola
Haiti is some appetizing fried pork, it’s a delicious fritter, some tasty fried goat
It’s a delicious vegetable stew laden with crabs, it’s flavorful rice with country greens
Haiti is a scrumptious broth, a pumpkin soup well-seasoned with bell peppers
It’s mouthwatering cassava with peanut butter
That you dip in a corn shake
Haiti is a dumpling that’s soaking in a bean dip
It’s pig woods, some good liquor
Haiti is the divine coffee that you drink at night

Ayiti cheri pou jan mwen renmen w
Mwen vin depoze ti kè mwen nan men w
Ayiti cheri pou jan m’adore w
Pa gen anyen kap janm fè mwen kite w
Ayiti cheri pou jan mwen renmen w
Mwen vin depoze ti kè mwen nan men w
Ayiti cheri pou jan m’adore w
Pa gen anyen kap janm fè mwen kite w

Haiti baby, as much as I love you
I’ve come to put my heart in your hands
Haiti baby, as much as I adore you
Nothing will let me let go of you
Haiti baby, as much as I love you
I’ve come to put my heart in your hands
Haiti baby, as much as I adore you
Nothing will let me let go of you

Ayiti s’on bèl mizik se yon bann a pye s’on twoubadou
S’on son kata seremoni, se yon son kwachi yon son tanbou
Ayiti se tè Ogou, se tè zansèt kite pou nou
Se la lesklavaj t’aboli se yon tè libète ak vodou
Ayiti se festival se tisourit se fèt chanpèt
S’animasyon nan Kanaval se yon ti zile k’ pa janm frèt
Ayiti s’on domino se yon bezig se yon twasèt
S’on reveyon kote ki gen bouyon se la k’ gen kenbe tèt

Haiti is pounding music, a street music band parade, a troubadour
It’s a ceremony, a calabash dish, and a drum
Ayiti is Ogou’s land, the land our ancestors left for us
It’s where slavery was abolished, it’s the land of the free and the land of Vodun
Haiti is festivals, it’s Little Mouse, it’s ritual dances of Chanpêtre
It’s dancing and fun at carnival, it’s a little island that never sleeps
Haiti is a game of dominoes, it’s a winning hand of dice and cards
It’s a Christmas Eve party with some good broth, that’s where you hold your head up

Ayiti se yon konbit peyizan kap sèkle latè
Se ti machann yo kap desann
Pou y’al goumen ak lavi chè
Ayiti se timoun yo k’ap reve de yon bèl avni
Se dlo rigòl la kap desann pa konn kote l pra-l ateri
Ayiti se anba tant lan depi apre 12 janvye
Se labou k’ lev’ on move sant chak lè on ti lapli fin tonbe
Ayiti se sou beton’an pou konn “la vrai” reyalite
Se youn ki tris men grasadye se pa li sèlman n’ ka chante

Haiti is a collective of farmers who get together to work the land
It’s the women street vendors descending down the city
To go fight the hard life head to head
Haiti is a little kid that’s dreaming of a bright future
It’s the dirty water from sewer streams that doesn’t quite know where it’s going
Haiti is being under the tent since January 12th
It’s mud on the levees that gives off a foul smell every time it rains
Haiti is the ground that doesn’t know true realities
It’s a sad one, but by God’s grace, it’s not the only one that we can sing


Ayiti se yon manman ki konn sa yo rele doulè
On fanm ki djanm on fanm vanyan menm si l’ konnen li pa pafè
Ayiti se yon bèl fanm ki menmsi l pase anpil mizè
Li toujou f’on jan l ranje kò l pou tout pitit li toujou fyè
Ayiti se tout bagay sa a yo ki fè ke nou renmen w
E menm si wout la long konnen n’ap toujou la pou n kenbe men w
Ayiti cheri w mèt kwè m
Pa gen anyen k’ap fè m’kite-w
Map toujou la pou ou cheri
Kite mizik sa a dòlote-w

Haiti is a mother that doesn’t know the meaning of pain
Who stands strong and tall, who’s brave—even though she’s conscious that she’s far from perfect
Haiti is a beautiful woman who’s been through a whole lot
But who cleans up nicely so that her kids can walk with their heads up—proud
Haiti, it’s all these things that make us love you
Even if the road is long, I know that we’ll always be here to hold your hand
Haiti baby, believe you me
Nothing will ever make me leave you
Let this song right here serenade you

Creole Lyrics
English Translation: Kreyolicious

Last Updated on November 10, 2023 by kreyolicious

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