Kaya (Mauritian musician)

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Joseph Topize.jpg
Background information
Birth name Joseph Réginald Topize
Born (1960-08-10)10 August 1960
Origin Mauritius
Died 21 February 1999(1999-02-21) (aged 38)
Genres Seggae
Instruments Guitar

Joseph Réginald Topize (10 August 1960 – 21 February 1999) professionally known by his stage name Kaya was a Mauritian musician and the creator of "seggae". "Seggae" is a fusion of Mauritian sega and reggae; two of the most popular music genres in Mauritius.

Musical career[edit]

Topize was born in Roche-Bois in Port Louis on August 10, 1960, from a family of five children. He was left under the supervision of an uncle as his father, a fisherman, was unable to support his education. Topize did not have a very happy childhood. Being a Mauritian Creole person , he was a young victim of racism and found himself left on his own to find odd jobs at the age of 8 years. At 16, he began to learn the guitar. He played hits from artists such as Mike Brant, Santana, Deep Purple, etc., and hosted dances and weddings with his first band, "Wind and Fire".

Topize adopted the name 'Kaya' soon after discovering Bob Marley and reggae music in homage to Marley's album of the same name. Kaya revered Marley and was heavily influenced by him both musically and politically.

Kaya decided to move away from his former music style covering pop-rock groups and became dedicated to both interpret and imitate the music of Bob Marley. Spotted for his talents as a guitarist, he joined the group 'Lélou Menwar'. It was with them that Kaya performed in his first real concert and recorded his first studio album 'Letan lenfer'.

After touring with Lélou Menwar, Kaya gather some friends from his hometown, Roche-Bois, to create the group 'Racinetatan'; named after a Malagasy prince exiled in Mauritius. Kaya and Racinetatan incorporated many of Marley's hits into their performances along with heavily influenced reggae compositions of their own. However, over time Kaya began to question this with the concept of "roots & culture" in mind. Kaya began to see that though he loved reggae and Jamaican culture, this did not fit his reality in Mauritius. In 1986, fueled by his new thought process, Kaya began to mix reggae music in with the local music, Sega.

Political action[edit]

Kaya also campaigned for the rights of the Mauritian Creole people.[citation needed]

On February 16, 1999, the Republican movement organised a free concert for the decriminalization of cannabis along Edward VII Street at Rose Hill. Five groups were playing, including Kaya.

Rama Valayden, a Republican later to become Minister of Justice, opened the festivities with a speech in favor of the decriminalization of soft drugs, saying: "mo pou amène dépénalisation, sinon mo pas pou dans gouvernement" as reported by the local press. Valayden then asked the crowd for a show of hands in support of resolutions calling for the decriminalization and appealed to Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam for those imprisoned for possession of marijuana to be amnestied. At the time, about 2000 people or 75% of the prison population were imprisoned for soft drugs offences, with sentences ranging from several months to two years.[citation needed]

The crowd was composed of roughly 2000 participants and had a playful and peaceful atmosphere. However, many young people became overexcited and began to smoke marijuana openly. At the time there was no police intervention.

Two days after the event, police forces identified five people for smoking or encouraging the smoking of marijuana during the concert and had them reprimanded for questioning. Kaya was among those arrested and admitted to smoking the night of the concert. He was immediately imprisoned in a part of the Barracks Line prison named "Alcatraz", a detention center in Port-Louis usually reserved for the large quantity load drug dealers.

The police issued a request of 10,000 rupees (a considerable amount for the average Mauritian) for the release of the artist. Kaya's wife, aided by his fellow musicians and members of the MR (not Valayden), managed to raise the sum. However, due to various blunders of the lawyers involved and especially a lack of political support for the MR, Kaya was not released on the expected date, February 20. Since this then led on to a weekend, his release date would be postponed until the Monday. This was too late for Kaya and he was found dead in his cell on the morning of Sunday, February 21, 1999.

The official records state that Kaya, suffering from drug withdrawal, threw himself against the walls of his own cell and broke his skull in the process. A coroner from the neighbouring island of Reunion, Dr. Ramstein, contradicted this statement with his examination which claimed Kaya had been beaten to death.

Riots followed soon after causing a major social upheaval in Mauritius resulting in the 1999 Mauritian riots.[1]


  • Seggae nu la mizik, 1989
  • Roots of Seggae,1990
  • La paix universelle,1991
  • Tansyon mové zintansyon,1992
  • Seggae Man,1993
  • Racine pé brilé,1994
  • Ersatz of Bob Marley (Tribute to Bob Marley),1995
  • Kaya chante Marley (Tribute to Bob Marley),1996
  • Zistwar Revoltan,1996
  • Mo la misik,1997
  • Seggae Experience (Best Of Kaya),1998
  • Mo Enkor La (Best of Kaya), 2007

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vellien, Clifford: Rioting in Mauritius set off by jail death of singer, The Guardian, 25 February 1999.

External links[edit]