‘12’ on the rise

LAST year, a dear friend of mine told me about “this band” that was performing in Newtown. Of course, I was curious as to the band’s name. “I think it’s 12,” said my friend. “Twelve what?” I asked. “Just 12. ‘12’ is the name of the band.” I was sceptical. But sure enough, when we got there, the band members were all wearing T-shirts with the number “12” written on it. The music, however, was not what I expected. From my experience, bands in Trinidad tend to play either soca, calypso, or alternative rock music. I was pleasantly surprised at what I heard — a mix of jazz, soul, and the blues with a touch of rock. Some months later I met with Sheldon Holder, the lead vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, founder, and leader of “12” the band.

From a young age Sheldon was obsessed with music and hoped to form his own band. His father was a musician who played guitar in church. After leaving school Sheldon had some time on his hands so he decided to learn to play guitar. After his father’s death, he was left with all his father’s instruments and continued to develop his talents — playing the guitar and writing music. A good friend of his joined a band and Sheldon would always go see them play. This encouraged him to continue with his music even more and he began experimenting with rap and dance hall music. This did not last long, however, because Sheldon found the expressions limited in vocabulary.

He always liked calypso, but it was too strict an art form for his musical taste. However, he admired entertainers such as Andre Tanker, The Mighty Shadow and Ras Shorty I, because of the twist they put in their music. He also has a liking for the works of Garry Hector of Joint Pop, Oliver Chapman, Nappy Myers, and others whose music was obviously Trinidadian, but outside the conventional. On the urging of a friend, Sheldon formed “12”. Why the name “12”? “Well, there definitely are not 12 members in the band,” said Holder. “The number means a lot to me. Twelve is a symbol of God’s love for mankind. There were 12 tribes of Israel. Christ has 12 apostles.

There are 12 faculties of the mind. In western music, there is the Chromatic Scale which contains 12 notes. In biblical and spiritual references, 12 is a symbol of completeness. It is a love symbol that represents changes across religion and culture and so the number was chosen to reflect love in all its aspects. 12’s music is about life — the ups and downs — all of life.” “When people come to see us for the first time, they always think it’s a new band but we’ve been around for six years,” Sheldon said. The original members of 12 consisted of Rene Coryatt, Marvin Dolly, Christian Dopson, and Sheldon. Now there are five members — Brendon Moore on the flugelhorn, Nigel Irish on bass guitar, Makesi Joseph on drums, and John Hussain on lead and rhythm guitar.

“And when I say right now I mean right now. 12 is a musical collaborative that is continually changing and adapting to situations and environments. For example, if there is a function and a client only wants the acoustic guitar, the flugelhorn, and a singer, then 12 becomes a three-member band. Also, one person who plays with the band works on a cruise ship, but when he returns to Trinidad, he comes back to play with the band.  Dean Williams, a guitarist who has played with artistes such as Machel Montano and Xtatic, Destra, Denyse Plummer, and others have always supported 12 and occasionally plays with them. That is why you can’t really put a number to 12 (Ha ha).”

12 has a lot more to offer musically when compared to main-stream popular music. “The Trini market demands ‘jam and wine’ but our music is not only for the waistline, but for all your lines,” Sheldon said. “Even some popular artistes produce music most people will never hear because it is not of that type. “People are not being made aware of other genres locally. The music industry in TT has to open up and allow other types of music to come to the fore. That is the only way we can have a ‘music industry’ and become a force on the international music scene — something beyond the festival of Carnival.” Sheldon and other members of 12 would like to be the force to make that change come about. 

“12 and many other bands have the potential to make this change come about,” he said, “but I know it’s an evolution and it will take time.” The members of 12 will soon be working on a new album entitled Streets and Avenues. On Tuesday 12 will perform at the Little Carib Theatre where they will open for the French band “Les Croquants.” Admission is $80 and showtime is 7.30 pm.


"‘12’ on the rise"

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