The “rivalry” is officially over.
Keithroy “De Voice” Morson captured the Montserrat calypso crown for the third year in a row early Friday, December 30, 2022 at Festival Village in Little Bay. In the process he vanquished his duel with Roland “Kenzie” Johnson and took home the EC $10,000 top prize.
“I think I’ve finally put the rivalry to rest as far as who is better than who,” Morson said as he celebrated with supporters after the show. “But I hope the rivalry continues as far as me and Kenzie continuing to put out good calypsos.”
Morson – who is best known as “De Bear” but has used the nickname “De Voice” in Montserrat since 2020 – added to his already impressive calypso portfolio. He won his sixth Festival/Carnival crown in Montserrat, putting him in second place all-time behind Justin “Hero” Cassell’s 10 titles. He is also just the third calypsonian to win three in a row in Montserrat, following Alphonsus “Arrow” Cassell (1974, 1975, 1976) and Everton “Reality” Weekes (1978, 1979, 1980). No Montserrat calypsonian has won four in a row.
“I’m not surprised at the results,” said Morson, who also won the William “Ruler” Murrain Crowd Favorite award, Most Creative Song (Hard Like A Diamond), Best Vocalized Song (Hard Like A Diamond) and Best Stage Presentation (Ah Shoulda). “I’m glad that these guys came out and pushed me.”
Morson and Johnson, who both hail from the East of Montserrat, have been competing in the calypso show since the late 1980s and forged a rivalry of sorts in the early 1990s. The volcanic crisis eventually led to both men migrating – Morson to Antigua and Kenzie to the UK. The rivalry was rekindled last year when Kenzie competed in the Finals for the first time since 2012. The two penned songs aimed at each other and created intense hype for the Finals, which was won by De Voice, with Kenzie first runner-up.
Kenzie returned to the competition this year and released You Little Short Fella, a tune squarely aimed at De Voice. But on Finals night, he was plagued by technical issues that saw him have to restart both his songs. He finished in fourth place and earned $4,000.
De Voice performed in the final position (10) in both rounds, giving him a headliner-type aura, and he didn’t disappoint. His first entry, Hard Like A Diamond, was well-rendered with a solid presentation that featured two elderly people lamenting the cost of living.
De Voice then closed the curtain on the show with Ah Shoulda, which was gift-wrapped for Kenzie. Dressed as an undertaker, De Voice arrived with a coffin in tow. The crowd reaction gave early notice that De Voice likely would retain his crown.
For most of the year, De Voice had stated that he wouldn’t be defending his crown. But in the end he’s happy that he reneged.
“I really wasn’t planning on competing,” says De Voice, a six-time calypso champ in Antigua and three-time Leeward Islands monarch. “I’ve been competing for 22 years straight. I’ve never missed a finals. I was getting tired, my brain was getting tired. But I’m happy to know that I can maintain my standard and that I’m still good at my craft.”
As opposed to last year when the top two seemed a foregone conclusion, there were some other formidable entries this time. Veteran Garnett “Sylk” Thompson ($8,000) was first runner-up with two profound social commentaries, Cry of Injustice and No Confidence. Second-year performer and blooming star Kimari “Proklaima” Kirnon ($6,000) was excellent with No Regret and Jumbie Dance. Steve “Iceman” Weekes ($3,000) closed out the Top 5 behind Kenzie.
The remaining finalists all received $2,000. They were Herman “Cupid” Francis, Silvina “Khandie” Malone, Peter “Maddie” Sullivan, Kelvin “Tabu” Duberry and Baptiste Wallace.
THIS AND THAT
▪ A show slated to start at 8 p.m. did not get underway until 9:30 p.m. That is inexcusable. Also, technical difficulties with the sound system during the show forced at least three performances to be restarted. Not a good look.
▪ The Montserrat Arts Council needs to find a way to safeguard point totals from the Eliminations and Semifinals. Although points are not announced publicly, they are often leaked. Finding out one’s points and standing can have a psychological effect. For instance, a calypsonian who finds out he or she squeaked into the Finals knows it is virtually impossible to win with the same songs.
▪ Backup singing has been vastly improved this year. It is an area I have complained about for years and it appears to have finally been addressed.
▪ It seems some veterans continue to reach the Finals based on reputation rather than merit. Calypso judging will always be subjective, but some decisions from the semifinals were simply mind-boggling to me.
▪ Recycled melodies continue to be an issue.
▪ ComeSeeTV provided excellent stream of the calypso shows and I didn’t experience much buffering like past years.
▪ Cancellation of the local female calypso show and Miss Montserrat queen show was disappointing and appeared to be the result of poor vetting.
▪ I cringe sometimes when calypsonians blare out “Lord!” for effect during performances. It feels superfluous and blasphemous, even though that is not the intent.
▪ It was great to see Everton “Reality” Weekes performing some of his classics before the show, including Woman Come To Jam and Struggle. The years have also been kind to him.
▪ Nia Golden must be commended for her documentary on the history of Montserrat calypso, titled Calypso, Love Nia.
▪ Best Social Commentary: Land By The Sea, Ozie Blue
▪ Humorous song: De Tool, Maddie
▪ Best performance: Ah Shoulda, De Voice
▪ Best presentation: Ah Shoulda, De Voice
▪ Most Creative Song: Children of the Sixties, Cupid
▪ Best Written Songs: Too Far Behind, Iceman, and No Confidence, Sylk
▪ Favorite Song of Carnival: Iron and Parang, Warda
▪ Surprise Hit of Carnival: Nice Groove, Lady Shay
Calypso crowns by De Bear (De Voice)
|1985||Montserrat Jr. Calypso||Slavery (one song)|
|1992||Montserrat Festival||Back to Basics & Face The Truth|
|1993||Montserrat Pilgrimage||Come Home (one song)|
|1993||Montserrat Festival||The Time Has Come & Show Respect|
|2002||Antigua Independence||Man Is Dust & Help|
|2007||Antigua Carnival||I Say No & Support Party|
|2007||Leeward Islands Competition||I Say No & Man Is Dust|
|2010||Antigua Carnival||Leopard Come Home & Don't Sing Bout de Judgment|
|2011||Antigua Carnival||Melee For Sale & We Get The Change Ivena|
|2012||Antigua Carnival||Time To Take Our Place & Freedom for Mandela|
|2012||Leeward Islands Competition||Time To Take Our Place & Freedom for Mandela|
|2014||Montserrat Festival||Don't Forget Your Juliet & Got To Go|
|2015||Antigua Carnival||Can't Stop The Bear & Sing A Different Song|
|2015||Leeward Islands Competition||Can't Stop The Bear & Sing A Different Song|
|2019||Antigua Carnival||Let The Master Show You & On A Ray Of Hope|
|2020||Montserrat Carnival||By Faith & Call Daddy|
|2021||Montserrat Carnival||Let Us Rebuild & Don't Wake The Bear|
|2022||Montserrat Carnival||Hard Like A Diamond & Ah Shoulda|
|2023||Leeward Islands Competition||Hard Like A Diamond & Don't Wake The Bear|