Africa (Toto song)

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Single by Toto
from the album Toto IV
B-side "Good for You"
"We Made It" (Europe)
"Africa" (live) (1990 re-release)
Released May 10, 1982
Format 7", CD
Recorded October 25, 1981
Genre Soft rock[1], world music, progressive rock, arena rock
Length 4:55
Label Columbia
Writer(s) David Paich, Jeff Porcaro
Producer(s) Toto
Toto singles chronology
"Make Believe"
"I Won't Hold You Back"
Audio sample
file info · help

"Africa" is a hit song by rock band Toto, and is one of the band's most recognizable songs. It was included on their 1982 album Toto IV, and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1983 and number three on the UK Singles Chart the same month. The song was written by the band's keyboardist/vocalist David Paich and drummer Jeff Porcaro. On May 17, 2013, the song re-entered the New Zealand singles chart after a 30 year absence, to reach a new peak of number 5, after it peaked at number 8 on November 14, 1982. Even better success was attained on the New Zealand iTunes digital chart, where "Africa" reached number 1. This took place after three New Zealand radio DJs from The Edge Radio Station (Carl Fletcher, Vaughan Smith, and Megan Sellers) encouraged their listeners to download it. David Paich then contacted the trio for a congratulatory interview.


The initial idea for the song came from David Paich. Jeff Porcaro explains the idea behind the song: "... a white boy is trying to write a song on Africa, but since he's never been there, he can only tell what he's seen on TV or remembers in the past."[2]

David Paich said: "At the beginning of the '80s I watched a late night documentary on TV about all the terrible death and suffering of the people in Africa. It both moved and appalled me and the pictures just wouldn't leave my head. I tried to imagine how I'd feel about if I was there and what I'd do."[3]

Musically the song took quite some time to assemble, as Paich and Porcaro explain:

"On 'Africa' you hear a combination of marimba with GS 1. The kalimba is all done with the GS 1; it's six tracks of GS 1 playing different rhythms. I wrote the song on CS-80, so that plays the main part of the entire tune."[4]

Jeff Porcaro reminisces about how the song's percussion tracks took shape:

"I was about 11 when the New York's World Fair took place, and I went to the African pavilion with my family. I saw the real thing; I don't know what tribe, but there were these drummers playing, and my mind was blown... It was the first time I witnessed someone playing one beat and not straying from it, like a religious experience, where it gets loud, and everyone goes into a trance. I have always dug those kind of orchestras, whether it be a band or all drummers... and I said, 'Gee, someday there's going to be a little drum orchestra where everybody plays one thing, and you don't stray from it. You do it until you drop. You're banished from that land if you move from that one part.'

"So when we were doing 'Africa', I set up a bass drum, snare drum and a hi-hat, and Lenny Castro set up right in front of me with a conga. We looked at each other and just started playing the basic groove. ... The backbeat is on 3, so it's a half-time feel, and it's 16th notes on the hi-hat. Lenny started playing a conga pattern. We played for five minutes on tape, no click, no nothing. We just played. And I was singing the bass line for 'Africa' in my mind, so we had a relative tempo. Lenny and I went into the booth and listened back to the five minutes of that same boring pattern. We picked out the best two bars that we thought were grooving, and we marked those two bars on tape. We made another mark four bars before those two bars. Lenny and I went back out; I had a cowbell, Lenny had a shaker. They gave us two new tracks, and they gave us the cue when they saw the first mark go by. Lenny and I started playing to get into the groove, so by the time the that fifth bar came – which was the first bar of the two bars we marked as the cool bars we liked – we were locked, and we overdubbed shaker and cowbell.

"So there was bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat, two congas, a cowbell, and a shaker. We went back in, cut the tape, and made a one-bar tape loop... Maybe it would have taken two minutes to program that in the Linn, and it took about half an hour to do this. But a Linn machine doesn't feel like that! So we had an analog groove. We took that tape, transferred it onto another 24-track for six minutes, and David Paich and I went out in the studio. The song started, and I was sitting there with a complete drumset, and Paich was playing. When he got to the fill before the chorus, I started playing the chorus, and when the verse or the intro came back, I stopped playing. Then we had piano and drums on tape. You have to realize that there are some odd bars in 'Africa', so when you have a one-bar loop going, all of a sudden, sometimes Lenny's figure would turn around. So Lenny went in and played the song again, but this time he changed his pattern a little for the turnarounds, for the fills, for the bridge, for the solo. We kept the original part and the new one. Then we had to do bongos, jingle sticks, and big shakers doing quarter notes, maybe stacking two tracks of sleigh bells, two tracks of big jingle sticks, and two tracks of tambourine all down to one track. I was trying to get the sounds I would hear Milt Holland or Emil Richards have, or the sounds I would hear in a 'National Geographic' special, or the ones I heard at the New York World's Fair."[5]

"Africa" continues to be played at all of Toto's live concerts. It was sung by David Paich at the 2009 Millennium Development Goals Awards Ceremony.[6]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Steve Barron.[7] In the video, a researcher in a library (portrayed by band member David Paich) tries to match a scrap of a picture to the book from which it was torn out. As he continues his search, a black female librarian working at a desk takes occasional notice of him, while a native in the surrounding jungle begins to close in on the library. When the researcher finds a book entitled Africa, the native throws a spear, toppling stacks of books. Africa falls open to the page from which the scrap was torn, but a lantern lands on it and sets it on fire, after which the librarian's eyeglasses are shown falling to the floor. The scenes are intercut with shots of a spinning globe and the band performing atop a stack of hardcover books.

This video also features Mike Porcaro on bass, replacing David Hungate who had already left Toto before the video was made.


Guest musicians[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

It reached number 1 on the New Zealand iTunes charts on the 15th May 2013. It also re-entered the Official New Zealand Top 40 at Number 5 on 17th May 2013. This was done by the incredible Fletch and Vaughn from the Edge Radio station.

Versions and Samples[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Official TOTO Website - Encyclopedia". 2007-04-18. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  3. ^ "Official TOTO Website - Releases". Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  4. ^ Keyboard, 09/1995
  5. ^ Modern Drummer (November 1988)
  6. ^ "David Paich to perform at United Nations M.D.G. Awards". Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  7. ^ "Toto - "Africa"". Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  8. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Steffen Hung. "Toto - Africa". Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  10. ^ "UK Top 40 Chart Archive, British Singles & Album Charts". 2000-03-16. Retrieved 2011-11-03. 
  11. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Toto – Africa". Music Canada. 
  12. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Toto – Africa". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. 
  13. ^ "British single certifications – Toto – Africa". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Africa in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Click Go
  14. ^ "American single certifications – Toto – Africa". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  15. ^ Glasba za dobro jutro: Perpetuum Jazzile, Africa. Delo, 7 August 2013, Accessed on 17 September 2013.
  16. ^ Canadian Hot 100 - Karl Wolf artist page
  17. ^ Retrieved 19 May 2014

External links[edit]