James playing bass guitar in local band, Island Politics, during a gig at the Kingshurst Community Centre.
Time-Lapse St Helena: James Fantom


Time-Laspe is a blog feature designed to capture segments of time, life and culture through stories told by the people of St Helena.

“My love for music started when I was going to middle school in America (aged 11).  I made a friend who played guitar and I thought wouldn’t it be cool if we started a band, because at that age you’re just trying to be cool right?  So I started playing drums.  But I picked up the guitar too, and I could tell that, like, I had some sort of natural talent with music and I got better quicker than a lot of people did.

“It quickly became my entire life.  I was practising in high school about six hours a day, pretty much as soon I got home to 10pm.

“I started studying Music Education at university but changed to Classical Guitar Performance.  That’s playing Bach and Mozart and things in a classical style.”

Not Fun Anymore

James Fantom plays bass guitar in local band, Island Politics, on St Helena.
Time-Lapse, What The Saints Did Next.

“At that time I wanted to be a professional classical musician.  I was getting to the point where I was paid quite a lot to play.  The going rate for me was £100 an hour for fancy business events or weddings.  I gave that up because I realised the world I was getting into was like, extremely competitive and there was so much pressure to be better than the next guy.

“Music started to become not fun anymore.  It actually drove me crazy after a while because of the pressure.  I thought, this is not why I started playing music so I kind of put it down after a while and started focussing on stuff I liked.

“I can play guitar, bass, drums, piano, saxophone, clarinet, flute, violin, viola, cello…  I can pretty much pick up any instrument and play.  They all kind of make sense now, I can figure out the mechanics.”

Sheet Music In My Head

“My first adult band was called ‘Spuddy and the Twang’ it was me and a friend, we only recorded two songs but it was pretty good.  Then I joined a band in Philadelphia called ‘Ecce Shnak.’  They were in the process of releasing two albums that I recorded before I left America.  It’s hard to explain their music it’s really strange, sort of rock, sort of opera-ish.

“I try to write my own music every so often but I have the typical problem when I can start something but can never really finish it.  I cannot do lyrics; I don’t have a way with words so I just write the music.

“One of the biggest things I got out of university is my ear is now very good.  Basically if I hear a tune I watch it going by in sheet music in my head.  I hear every part, all the little things.

“It’s good but sometimes I wonder what music sounds like if you don’t know all that.  Like if you go to school for a film and all of a sudden all your favourite films are ruined because you know too much about them.”

One In A Million

“I’m now in a band called Island Politics (on St Helena), there are three of us and I play bass.  I’m not the strongest singer so I don’t really sing.  Also it’s quite hard to play bass and sing than it is to play guitar and sing.

Island Politics is a 3-person band. Along with James (bass) is Gareth Drabble (guitar, vocals) and Barry Francis (drums).
Time-Lapse St Helena: James Fantom

“It feels really good being in the band and playing music.  I came here (to St Helena) not really expecting to do that so well and it’s really nice to play somewhere and have people actually enjoy it, be on the dance floor and stuff.  That’s something I haven’t really experienced to this extent before.  It’s really great to be a part of something that I feel is kind of big even though anywhere else it wouldn’t be as there [would be] a million bands.  I like it.”

James was born in Botswana, grew up in America and moved to St Helena year and a half ago. His mum is St Helenian, his dad is English.

“I can play guitar, bass, drums, piano, saxophone, clarinet, flute, violin, viola, cello… I can pretty much pick up any instrument and play.”
Time-Lapse St Helena: James Fantom