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Country Music

Keepin’ it country…

We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.{a}

If you like good ol’ country music this is the place for you{1}

Country Music

Country music and St Helena

You won’t be long on St Helena before you discover that Saints have an abiding love of country music. Switch on SaintFM Community Radio on a Sunday and you’ll hear one country programme after another (and a lot during the week, too!{2})

According to the Wikipedia:

Country music is a genre of American popular music that originated in Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from the South-Eastern genre of American folk music and Western music. Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms and harmonies accompanied by mostly string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas.

So if country music is the sound of the Southern United States, how come it is flourishing here, on an island with no American history or connection?


How country music came to St Helena and why it remains so popular, at least amongst the older generation, is not entirely clear. The best explanation seems to be the outflow of Saints to Ascension Island in the 1940s to work on construction of the Wideawake Airfield. There they met many Americans who, because of the nature of the US Military at the time, tended to come from the southern United States and were, by and large, fans of country music. To these young Saints this music was new and very different from the more conventional colonial English music from home. They adopted it as their own and when they returned to St Helena, brought it back with them.

This probably also explains why the style of country music most popular in St Helena is of a more traditional nature. Popular artists include (in no particular order): Alan Jackson (particular songs include Little Bitty, Pop a Top and It’s Five O’clock Somewhere), Johnny Cash (I Walk the Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire), Kenny Rogers (Lucille, Coward of the County), Dolly Parton (9 to 5,Joleen and many others), Tammy Wynette (Stand by Your Man), Garth Brooks, George Strait, Charley Pride, Brad Paisley & Shania Twain

Without music, life would be a mistake.{b}

Local Country

Peters Family Sings cover
‘Peters Family Sings’ cover

There are also plenty of local performers: Ray C; Karen McCoy; Colin Peters; Alex Vanguard; Hazel & Ralph Peters to name but a few. Several have recorded CDs. The CD ‘The Peters Family Sings’ is available on St Helena - you can hear an excerpt (right).

Country Karaoke is also a popular event in the bars in Jamestown{3}.

Here’s a local variant of the John Denver song ‘Country Roads’:

Ocean Road
Take me home
To the place
Where I was born
Saint Helena
Few have seen her
As she stands
All alone

In June 2014 the island even staged its own Grand Ole Opry:

Take part!

If you like country music, and especially if you also perform it, make yourself known when you arrive and people will happily introduce you to other fans, and maybe even put you on a stage!

…one of the Sounds of St Helena
…one of the Sounds of St Helena

If you want to listen to Country Music on the radio your preferred station will be SaintFM Community Radio. SAMS Radio 1 only occasionally plays a, usually more modern, country track.

Another way to engage is to turn up at The Standard almost every Saturday night from 9pm to about 1:15am (example right){4}. They sometimes do Karaoke, and whatever is being played it is considered quite acceptable for the audience to join in - however poorly!

Country Music Day

17th September is International Country Music Day. It isn’t exactly celebrated on St Helena - Country Music is played every day, so why bother?

Other music

…one of the Sounds of St Helena

Country may be the predominant music style amongst the Saints (or, at least, the older ones) but it is by no means the only music style found on the island. There are some examples of other styles on our page Sounds of St Helena and you can hear the island’s longest-running rock band, The Big Easy, (right).

For a complete history of St Helena music get hold of the book ‘For the Love of the Music’ by Emma-Jane Yon (usually available from the Museum of St Helena).

Read More

Article: Saint Helena influences up and coming music stars

Published in The Independent 7th January 2011{5}

Secret Sirens

Saint Helena has been cited as a major influence on an up and coming Leeds pop group, Secret Sirens.

Secret Sirens comprise multi-instrumentalist and music visionary Andy Siron, and singer-songwriter and keyboard player Narelle Francis. Based in Leeds, in the UK, the duo write and produce their music to capture images of fantasy, mythology, love and hate in the form of what has been described as ‘Dramatic Indie Pop’

Narelle is Yorkshire born, but with exotic roots from her maternal grandmother who hails from Saint Helena. I’ve been inspired by my grandmother’s life and where she came from in a lot of my song-writing…in fact most of my family and friends are my sources of inspiration. The duo have performed at designer Karen Millen’s house above a swimming pool for her Christmas party, and have also performed alongside the likes of Corinne Bailey Rae, Mica Paris, The View, The Pigeon Detectives, You Me At Six and Goldie Lookin’ Chain. Narelle has recently provided backing vocals for Rob Harvey from The Music, who has been in the studio writing material and working with The Streets

The group have had some success in the indie charts previously, and have recently released a single, Black Heart, which has received good airplay, including on SaintFM.

I never know what genre to describe our music as, I just knew we wanted it to be dramatic, with a large soundscape, touch on people’s emotions, and generally create catchy pop songs in some shape or form explains Narelle.

The group have been busy filming a video to support the release of Black Heart, and a debut album is scheduled for this Spring. They have a good following on Facebook™, and on the Leeds and wider music scene. SaintFM will be playing more tracks by the group in coming weeks, and looks forward to seeing their success continue to grow.


{a} Decca Recording Company executive, rejecting The Beatles, 1962{b} Friedrich Nietzsche{c} recorded by the editor of this website from his home in Napoleon Street{d} Recorded by Tony Leo


{1} And if you don’t rest assured that all the other music styles have their proponents on St Helena too.{2} SAMS Radio 1, to provide an alternative, rarely plays country music.{3} Popular with the participants, that is. The establishment’s neighbours may have other views…{4} The White Horse and Donny’s both play mostly modern music.{5} @@RepDis@@


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