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Slinging tuneage like some fried or otherwise soused short-order cook

13 June 2013

Mauritius




Nowadays every other person seems to use the word epic to describe just about anything. I’ve even heard TV blurbs saying some reality show episode was ‘epic’. I don’t think so. Wish they’d look up the meaning & give the word a break. Most of that shite is far less than ‘epic’.



Epic - 1. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style: Homer's Iliad is an epic poem. 2. resembling or suggesting such poetry: an epic novel on the founding of the country. 3. heroic; majestic; impressively great: the epic events of the war. 4. of unusually great size or extent: a crime wave of epic proportions.


Those are the first four definitions of epic & they all seem to apply not in the least to an episode of Hell’s Kitchen or The Bachelor. However, the story I relate here, I believe, is truly EPIC!

Joseph Reginald ‘Kaya’ Topize was born in the ghetto of Roche-Bois, Mauritius on August 10, 1960 into a family of five children. His fisherman father could not afford Kaya’s education, so he was placed under the guardianship of an uncle. Joseph had a hard childhood. Being an Indian & Métis mulatto, he was a victim of racism from a very young age.

At 16, he decided to learn the guitar. He was a quick learner & was soon playing covers of songs by Mike Brant, Santana, & Deep Purple. He began playing dances & weddings with his first band, Wind & Fire. Joseph soon discovered reggae music. Bob Marley became his idol. He even adopted the nickname Kaya as a shout out to the album of the same name. No more Mike Brant & other groups for Kaya. He now devoted his musical abilities to interpreting the songs of Bob Marley. He was asked to join the group lead by singer Stephano Lelou Menwar’ (Black Hand) Honore because of his guitar skills. They were a Sega protest band who, under the guidance of Kaya, quickly converted to reggae. They recorded the cassette Létan Lenfer in 1982 (Kaya first taste of studio recording). Menwar’s music was not commercially successful enough for Lelou to earn a living, so he chose to go to the island of Reunion in 1985.


At this point, Kaya decided to gather some of his friends from Roche-Bois & create the group Racinetatan, named after a Malagasy rebel prince exiled to Mauritius. Heavily influenced by reggae & the message of the Rastafarians, the band is a huge success. Kaya used his musical skills to incorporate the triplets of traditional sega music with the binary rhythm of reggae. In so doing, he invented a new musical style, called Seggae.

Seggae is not an instant hit with the fans, however. They want the simple reggae beats & the new sound is complex, the pace is anything but simple.


Another roadblock in Kaya’s path to acceptance is his pro-marijuana stance, something that fit oerfectly with his reggae infkuences & his African heritage. But Mauritius is not a safe or easy place to be pro-pot. The government there does not differentiate between different types of drugs. They impose severe penalties on dealers, users, & activists alike, whether for hard drugs like heroin & cocaine or recreational drugs like marijuana. Yet it should also be noted that the Indians of the Mauritius drink a decoction of the ganja in their religions rites, without knowing any problem. It is true that drugs are a scourge in Mauritius, especially in the poorer Creole communities, torn by alcohol, heroin, & prescription drug abuse. The real issue is racial, as the laws are much more harshly applied to poor Creoles that other sectors of the populace.

In 1995, Mauritius abolishes its death penalty, which applied to murder & drug trafficking. Valayden Rama, leader of the Republican Movement (MR), among others, tries to have the government set up guidelines that will make different penalties for differing types of drugs. As a result, many musicians join to the cause. They organize concerts to promote the decriminalization of marijuana.

On 16 February 1999, the Republican Movement hosts a free concert for the decriminalization of Ganja at the St. Edward-VII Reduces area, close to Rose Hill. Five groups participate, including Kaya. Valayden opens the festivities with a speech in favor of the legalization of soft drugs. He then asked the crowd to vote by show of hands for four resolutions calling for the decriminalization & which appealed to Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, that those imprisoned for possession of  ganja (about 2000 or 75% of the prison population, with sentences ranging from a few months to two years) to be granted amnesty.

Getting into the spirit of the moment, a crowd of some estimated 2,000 participants, many of them young Rastafarians, smoke joints openly. There are Special Security forces en masse, armed with clubs, but everything remains peaceful.

It was only the next day that the government & police forces decide to harass five people identified as having publicly smoked or having incited others to smoke ganja during the concert. Among the five is Kaya, who admits to having smoked that night. He is immediately imprisoned in Alcatraz, a detention facility traditionally intended for wholesale dealer & hard-line criminals. His bail is set at 10,000 rupees (2500Fr), a very sizeable amount. His wife, aided by his musicians friends & influential members of MR managed to raise the bail, put an end to a story at once ridiculous & discriminatory. However, due to various blunders by lawyers, there is a red-tape delay. Kaya can not get released on Saturday, February 20 & must wait until Monday to be released. Only Kaya was never set free. His wife & friends never see him alive again. He was found dead in his cell on the morning of Sunday, February 21. The official police version is that Kaya died from self-inflicted injuries from smashing his head against the cell walls. Kaya’s wife requests a second opinion. The examination was conducted by a medical examiner of Réunion, Dr. Ramstein. His findings stated that the injuries were not consistent with someone hitting their head against the wall. He stated that Kaya was beaten.


The news spread quickly across the island, causing the tears of many people & a feeling of revenge. Then began the first riots in the neighborhood of Roche-Bois which rapidly spread to the rest of the country. Police barricades were set up in the streets of the capital. The police quickly responded to protesters by opening fire, fatally wounding many people, killing several, including Berger Agathe, a friend of Kaya, also a musician. The violence was fed primarily by the official version of the suicide of the singer, but the malaise was culturally much deeper. It was actually the expression of the sense of injustice felt by the Creole community as a whole. The death of Kaya, who had always spoken out in favor of a multicultural society & a unified Mauritian national consciousness crystallized all the societal tension & racial opposition between Creole & Hindu communities.

More than fourteen years later, the memory of Kaya is still strong in Mauritius. The Mauritian government has continually denied any wrong doing. Yet the global economic crisis has only amplified the social inequality & deepened the drug problem among the underprivileged youth, still fueling the breach in the repression. Ethnic rivalries simply suppressed by a government that continues to exert shameless communal politics at the expense of minorities.

 The Epic Saga of Kaya & Berger Agathe

Two Seggae singers, victims of the police system in Mauritius.

Arrested for lighting a joint on stage on February 16, 1999
at a rally-concert for the decriminalization of ganja (cannabis),
a concert organized by the Republican Movement
(young political party founded by Rama Valaydem)
the great Creole singer Kaya, nicknamed the Indian Ocean,
creator of Seggae music halfway between sega & reggae,
was found dead on February 21, 1999 in his prison cell in Alcatraz.
Hemorrhage, head injury, traumatic or natural? questioned journalists;
it is "to be confirmed" by these journalists.

Mauritius is an independent state since 1968.
In 1982, Anerood Jugnaut was appointed Prime Minister
& in 1992 the island became a republic.
In 1995, Navin Ramgoolam became Prime Minister.
Cannabis is strongly suppressed.
The simple act of smoking ganja is punishable by imprisonment,
Bail set at 10,000 rupees (2,500 F).

The day of the death of Kaya
riots took place throughout the country.

Berger Agathe, another Seggae singer of the group Ovajaho
Succumbs to about fifteen shots
fired by police.

This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The riot at Roche Bois.
In the neighborhood where the artist lived,
the police station is completely trashed.
On the island, they are shooting, throwing stones, molotov cocktails.
Different communities live in Mauritius.
Riots turn into ethnic conflict:
looted shops, attacked Hindu temples, burned plants.
The island is on fire for 48 hours.
For two singers seggae rasta,
for the creator of seggae, singing for peace
justice, harmony between cultures, died,
victims of police brutality.

Inter-ethnic conflict lasts 48 hours
two days that have damaged relations between the different communities.
Faced with an Indian population most often preferred,
Creole find themselves even more destitute
with the disappearance of their spokesman, Kaya.

"Dan ene country kot népli éna control lor police népli éna democracy"
(in a country where the police have every right, there is no democracy)

It is the government's repressive policy
which tends to favor the ethnic conflict.
Marginalizing some communities
government discredits them,
fueling racial hatred.

OFFICIAL VICTIMS OF THE RIOTS

A policeman died of a
cardiac crisis - 2/22/99

Berger Agathe
died by bullets2/22/99

Leemul Goostia, 18 years old
died by bullets - 2/24/99

Michel "Gino" Laurent, 22 years old
died by bullets – 2/24/99

J.P Ravina, 19 years old
died by bullets - 2/25/99

Also, Désiré Francois the singer of Cassiya,
wounded by bullet to thorax.

Human bones, charred,
found in the rubble of a magazine office
destroyed & burned
during these epic days of Kaya’.

 Kaya – Seggae Experience: Best of Kaya, Meli Melo Music BEE 981201CD, 1998.
decryption code in comments

Tracklist –

Simé L’alimière
Mo Lamizik
Ki To Été
Chant L’amour
Racin Pé Brillé
Chant Seggae
Fam Dan Zil
Seggae Man
Lanpir Universel
Ras Kouyon

Beware,

5 comments:

  1. WIUEAwd-5PALufxrKrWv7Rm7S1YideBBYmQKyyWHPqQ

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks and Praises Bredda..... from Argentina.


    RasCopeRoots & Reggae

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the comment. I'll put a link to your site as soon as I can work on this thing. I checked it out 7 it looks great. Fantastic tribute to Kaya, but I was especially digging all the info on Alton Ellis. That's as far as I got, but I'll be back. Thanks also for following. Hope you enjoy.

    ReplyDelete