A glimpse of the rambunctious artist finally came shortly before 2 a.m., almost two hours into the packed show after a hip-shaking tease, a minor twerk, and a quick Michael Jackson crotch grab during a tribute to the recently departed Prince.
“When you are in the U.S, and you wonder who is the star. ... Is it Obama?” former Haitian President Michel Martelly, clad in a snug-fitting T-shirt and jeans, beckoned the crowd in Creole during a breakout tribute to his greatness. “But when you are in Haiti, who’s the star?”
With raised cellphones and fingers pointed at the bald-headed performer-turned-president, the crowd screamed, “Martelly.”
“I can’t hear you, point your finger at the star,” he said.
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“The people want Martelly,” he sang, sashaying across the stage of Pembroke Pines’ Cafe Iguana nightclub on Friday after trading in his jacket for the T-shirt. “Whether it’s about music. Whether it’s about politics. Whether it’s about model. Whether it’s about sexy. Whether it’s about sensuality. It’s only one person they want! The people want Martelly!”
And with that “Sweet Micky” was back.
“It’s time I become who I’ve been my whole life,” Martelly told the Miami Herald days earlier in an on-camera interview as he spoke of his transition back to life as a private citizen and his potty-mouth alter ego Sweet Micky, three months after leaving office. “Be a musician again.”
But the artist whom South Floridians welcomed back during his first performance as an ex-president was not the same ribald pop star who gave up the concert circuit six years ago at another South Florida nightclub to make a run for the Haitian presidency. This time around, there was no vulgarity — except for one F-bomb while reminding the crowd that they had paid to come see him perform — no pants dropping or skirt-wearing antics that made Martelly a star in his own country long before he threw his hat into the political ring.
There was instead restraint, despite him declaring to fans amid flying confetti that, “Now that I am no longer president, I can say what I want.”
Perhaps the subdued demeanor is a reflection of the new role that Martelly, 55, finds himself in after he was forced to pass the presidential sash to the president of the Senate and not an elected successor on Feb. 7 after electoral-fraud allegations forced Haiti to fall into the care of a provisional government.
“I’ve grown up,” Martelly said about how the presidency shaped him. “I have discovered things that I would never have found out had I not been president; definitely a more matured man.”
Or perhaps, the humbled, nearly non-stop, four-hour performance was reflective of age.
“I haven’t particularly changed, probably became wiser,” he said. “... I can also attribute it to aging. I’m no longer, 30; I’m no longer 35; I’m no longer 40. I’m in my mid-50s and, of course, on stage, it’s probably the same energy because that’s what comes from our soul and our soul is made of notes, of keys.”
But just as Martelly couldn’t bury the performer as president, often breaking out into song with visiting dignitaries, he can’t seem to bury the president and politician.
In talking about his comeback as an artist, Martelly couldn’t help but also take a few political jabs, both on and off the stage, at his adversaries.
“Haiti was opening itself to the world,” he said about the first two years of his presidency. But because of local politics, he added, people wanted to destroy the country or wanted “to keep it for themselves by having monopolies and stop the process of developing Haiti and allowing the poorest to benefit from development.”
Dismissing those who blame him for Haiti’s ongoing electoral crisis because he failed to hold elections during his first four years in office, Martelly said the current crisis was “an electoral coup.”
“There are a group of politicians who had their own plan, which is keeping the power without going to elections and doing their own thing,” Martelly told WLRN/Miami Herald News. “They were in power before and I don’t think they have done much and they couldn’t win, that’s why this is the only way for them to go back to keeping the power.”
Being president, he said, wasn’t easy.
“Sometimes, you think being president is having the authority or the privileges of living a big life,” he added. “Being president, depending on your will, on who you are, what your objectives are might be a load.”
In another moment of reflection on his controversial tenure, Martelly acknowledged that all wasn’t perfect. For example, while his telephone and wire transfer tax on Haitians in the diaspora helped advance his free-education initiative, he acknowledged that some school administrators stole money from the program by lying about the number of students they had enrolled in order to get more money.
“But that doesn’t take away from the good intentions of Michel Martelly,” he said.
Martelly remains steadfast in his position that the current political crisis is not of his making and his tenure was marked more by successes than failure.
“We saw Hollywood coming to Haiti during the first two years of my presidency,” he said. “Many times, I heard people talking about Haiti, but at the end, I realized that it’s just for personal interests.”
His critics, however, disagree with his view of his presidency. They not only blame him for the election debacle but accuse his administration of corruption and cronyism
“There should be a form of protest,” Tony Jeanthenor, a Haitian community activist with Veye-Yo said, “to let the larger community know that Sweet Micky does not represent the majority nor speak on its behalf.”
But there were no protests. There were only fans, some of whom began lining up two hours before Martelly took the stage in a jacket and jeans. Crowding the dance floors and the VIP area of the club, they sang along with the former president, who will also perform Saturday at Miami’s Haitian Compas Festival at Bayfront Park.
“I thought by 2 a.m. Micky would be in his underwear,” said Jonas Pierre, a Hollywood resident who acknowledged missing the performer. “He should have never been president of Haiti. He should have remained the president of konpa.”
Garry Pierre-Pierre, the publisher of the Haitian Times and producer of Kreyolfest, the largest Haitian organized cultural event north of Miami, said despite the rave reviews, he believes it will be tough for Sweet Micky to make a sustained comeback.
“Before he threw his hat in the political ring, Sweet Micky was a struggling band,” he said. “The Haitian Music Industry has changed drastically since Sweet Micky left the stage.”
But just as Sweet Micky crossed the lines between politics and music, Pierre-Pierre doesn’t expect anything different from the former president who ahead of his comeback performance this week released a politically-charged song in response to his critics, Kite Yo Pale (Let Them Talk).
“He will never be able to extricate himself from both worlds,” said Pierre-Pierre. “He has always been a politician, although not elected. Political lyrics have always been part of his repertoire. ... He proclaimed himself President Konpa. Now, he has it literally and figuratively.”
Like some, Pierre-Pierre believes that Martelly is working on a political comeback and being Sweet Micky again won’t hurt. Asked about the possibility of another presidential bid in five years, Martelly didn’t answer directly.
“We were there for Haiti,” he said. “We were there as president, and we will be there after we’re president. The idea is, we we will keep on doing what we do, which is remain close to the population.”