Africa (Toto song)

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"Africa"
Toto - Africa.jpg
US 7-inch (180 mm) shaped picture disc edition
Single by Toto
from the album Toto IV
B-side
Released
  • May 10, 1982 (1982-05-10) (Europe)
  • October 30, 1982 (1982-10-30) (US)
Format
RecordedOctober 18, 1981 (1981-10-18)
Genre
Length
  • 4:55 (album version)
  • 4:21 (radio edit)
LabelColumbia
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Toto
Toto singles chronology
"Make Believe"
(1982)
"Africa"
(1982)
"I Won't Hold You Back"
(1982)
Music video
"Africa" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Africa" is a song recorded by the American band Toto in 1981, for their fourth studio album Toto IV, and released as the album's third single on September 30, 1982, through Columbia Records. The song was written by band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, and composed by Toto. The soft rock and jazz fusion song lyrically incorporates themes of love and location.

Critics praised its composition and Toto's performances. The song reached number one on the United States' Billboard Hot 100 chart and is the band's only Billboard number one. The song remained at the top for a single week (February 5, 1983). "Africa" also peaked in the top ten in the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

The song was accompanied by a music video, which premiered in 1983, and was directed by Steve Barron, who collaborated previously with the group for "Rosanna". The video features Toto in a library, as they perform and showcase various aspects of African culture. While popular in the 1980s and 1990s, with the song being certified gold by the RIAA in 1991, "Africa" saw a resurgence in popularity via social media during the mid to late 2010s, including a fan-requested cover by American rock band Weezer which peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.[5] It has since been certified quadruple platinum.[6]

Background[edit]

The initial idea and lyrics for the song came from David Paich. Paich was playing around with a new keyboard, the CS-80,[7] and found the brassy sound that became the opening riff. Ten minutes later, he completed the melody and lyrics for the chorus.[8] Paich, who at the time had never set foot in Africa, based the landscape descriptions from an article in National Geographic.[9] 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."[10] 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.[11]

In 2015, Paich explained that the song is about a man's love of a continent, Africa, rather than just a personal romance.[12] Some additional lyrics relate to a person flying in to meet a lonely missionary, as Paich described in 2018.[9] As a child, Paich attended a Catholic school. Several of his teachers had done missionary work in Africa, and this became the inspiration behind the line: "I bless the rains down in Africa."[9] Paich reckons that he refined the lyrics for six months before showing the song to the rest of the band.[8]

Musically, the song took some time to assemble. Steve Porcaro, the band's synth player, introduced Paich to the Yamaha CS-80, a polyphonic analog synthesizer, and instructed him to write a song specifically with the keyboard in mind. Paich gravitated towards a brassy flute sound, which he found to be a unique alternative to the piano.[7] Porcaro programmed six tracks of a GS 1 to emulate the sound of a kalimba.[7] Each track featured a one-three note gamelan phrase with different musical parameters.[7] Meanwhile, Steve Porcaro's brother, Jeff, played his parts live without a click track.

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. [...] 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. [...] 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!

Jeff Porcaro also acknowledged that he was influenced by the sounds created by fellow Los Angeles session musicians Milt Holland and Emil Richards. He also described the significance of the African pavilion drummers at the 1964 New York World's Fair and a National Geographic Special.[8][13]

I was about 11 when the New York World's Fair took place, and I went to the African pavilion with my family. I saw the real thing ... It was the first time I witnessed somebody playing one beat and not straying from it, like a religious experience, where it gets loud, and everyone goes into a trance.

To recreate those sounds, he and his father Joe Porcaro created a percussion loop on bottle caps and marimba respectively. This was one of the first loops the band recorded for "Africa".[8]

During an appearance on the radio station KROQ-FM, Steve Porcaro and Steve Lukather described the song as "dumb" and "an experiment" and some of the lyrics as "goofy" that were just placeholders, particularly the line about the Serengeti.[14] While engineer Al Schmitt claimed that "Africa" was the second song written for Toto IV,[8] according to Porcaro, it was the last song they recorded and barely made the cut. The band was more focused on the album's lead single "Rosanna" instead.[14]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Steve Barron.[15] In the video, a researcher in a library (portrayed by band member David Paich) tries to match a scrap of a picture of a shield to the book from which it was torn out. As he continues his search, a librarian (Jenny Douglas-McRae) working at a nearby 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 titled Africa, the native throws a spear at a bookshelf (the shield the native carries is the same as the one in the picture), 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 giant hardcover books, in which Africa is the topmost.[16]

This video also features Mike Porcaro on bass, replacing David Hungate, who had already left the band before the video was made. Lenny Castro is also featured in the video on percussion.

As of June 2019, the music video has over 500 million views on YouTube.[16]

Legacy[edit]

The song was popular upon its release, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1983, and the song has continued to be a popular soft-rock classic up to the 21st century. The song has been utilized in many internet memes,[17] has appeared in television shows, such as Stranger Things, Family Guy, Chuck, and South Park, and was used by CBS during their coverage of the funeral of former South African president Nelson Mandela, albeit not without controversy.[18][19]

In 2012, "Africa" was listed by music magazine NME in 32nd place on its list of "50 Most Explosive Choruses."[20]

In January 2019, a sound installation was set up in an undisclosed location in the Namib Desert to play the song on a constant loop.[21] The installation is powered by solar batteries, allowing the song to be played indefinitely.[21]

Personnel[edit]

Guest musicians[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weezer cover[edit]

"Africa"
Weezer Africa Album Cover.jpeg
Single by Weezer
from the album Weezer (The Teal Album)
B-side"Rosanna"
ReleasedMay 29, 2018
Recorded2018
Genre
Length3:58
LabelAtlantic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Patrick Wilson[49]
Weezer singles chronology
"Happy Hour"
(2017)
"Africa"
(2018)
"Can't Knock the Hustle"
(2018)
Music video
"Africa" on YouTube

Weezer covered the song, following a fan-initiated social media campaign; it was released on May 29, 2018.[50]

In December 2017, Twitter user "@WeezerAfrica," run by 14-year-old Cleveland, Ohio resident Mary Klym,[51] tweeted, "@RiversCuomo it's about time you bless the rains down in Africa." After much back-and-forth between Mary and Weezer's drummer, Patrick Wilson, the band released a cover of "Rosanna", a different Toto song, in order to troll Klym and those clamoring for a version of "Africa".[52]

Weezer finally released "Africa" on May 29, 2018. It was the band's first Hot 100 hit since (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To" in 2009.[53] "Africa" reached number 51 on the Hot 100 and peaked at number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in August 2018, becoming the band's first number-one single since "Pork and Beans" in 2008.[54]

A limited edition 7-inch vinyl pressing was released by Weezer in July 2018 and sold exclusively through Urban Outfitters. The pressing was limited to 1500 copies, with "Africa" as the A-side and "Rosanna" as the B-side. The cover artwork features a background of palm fronds with the tweet that inspired the song in the center of the cover.[55][56]

Shortly after the song's release, Weezer appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! along with keyboardist Steve Porcaro of Toto to promote the single.[56] Toto responded on August 9, 2018, by releasing a cover of Weezer's 2001 single "Hash Pipe", after debuting it in concert a week prior.[57][58]

Weezer released a music video of their "Africa" cover in September 2018, styled as a parody of the video for their earlier single "Undone – The Sweater Song." Stand-ins for the band members perform the song on a soundstage, with "Weird Al" Yankovic replacing singer/guitarist Rivers Cuomo, with his band members replacing Weezer. Yankovic had previously appeared onstage during the band's tour to perform "Africa" with them.[59]

Weezer included the cover on their surprise release of the all-covers "Teal Album" in January 2019.[60]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2018) Peak
position
Canada Rock (Billboard)[61] 33
Mexico Ingles Airplay (Billboard)[62] 42
US Billboard Hot 100[63] 51
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[64] 19
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[65] 3
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[66] 5
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[67] 26

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2018) Position
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[68] 23
US Adult Contemporary Songs (Billboard)[69] 47
US Digital Song Sales (Billboard)[70] 73
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[71] 10

Samples[edit]

  • 2002: Ja Rule sampled the song on his song "Murder Reigns" taken from his fourth studio album The Last Temptation.[72]
  • 2006: American pop singer JoJo sampled "Africa" in her song "Anything", which served as the third single from her 2006 second studio album, The High Road.[73]
  • 2007: Lebanese-Canadian pop and R&B singer Karl Wolf sampled "Africa" in his own remake, also called "Africa", with added lyrics and musical composition and arrangement. The Karl Wolf song featured a rap section by the Canadian-Bahamian rapper Culture. The track served as the first single from his 2007 second studio album, Bite the Bullet, and reached number two on the Billboard Canadian Hot 100.[74]
  • 2010: In the first episode of the second season of Community, characters Troy Barnes, Abed Nadir, and anthropology professor June Bauer perform an anthropology-themed rap song that ends with the chorus of "Africa".
  • 2010: American experimental artist Daniel Lopatin heavily sampled "Africa" in the song "A1", a song featured in Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1.[75]
  • 2011: R&B singer Jason Derulo incorporated re-sung lyrics from "Africa" in his song "Fight for You", the fourth single from his 2011 album Future History.
  • 2016: Swedish production duo Bacall & Malo sampled "Africa" in their remake, also called "Africa", with added lyrics and musical composition and arrangement. The Bacall & Malo music video also featured vocals by UK-based Nigerian singer Prince Osito. The track was the debut charting single of the Swedish duo peaking at number 18 on Sverigetopplistan, the official Swedish Singles Chart.[76]
  • 2018: Rapper Pitbull and Rhea heavily sampled "Africa" on their song "Ocean to Ocean" for the soundtrack to Aquaman.[77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Deggans, Eric (August 20, 2014). "Review: Toto, Michael McDonald showcase stellar '70s chops at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater". Tampa Bay Times. Archived from the original on September 9, 2017. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
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  4. ^ Johnson, Rae (March 4, 2017). "Ranking The 25 Best '80s Hits From Corniest To Greatest". New Arena. Calabasas, California: Brightcast. p. 4. Retrieved October 16, 2018. This beloved rock-jazz fusion song by Toto... 
  5. ^ Zellner, Xander (June 13, 2018). "Weezer Returns to Hot 100 With Fan-Inspired Cover of Toto's 'Africa'". Billboard. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  6. ^ https://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/?tab_active=default-award&se=toto+africa#search_section
  7. ^ a b c d Kovarsky, Jerry (July 13, 2015). "TOTO: The Synth Statesmen of Progressive Pop Return". Keyboard. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
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  51. ^ McKinstry, Lee. "Teen Tweets Weezer Into Covering "Africa"". Cleveland Magazine. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
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  59. ^ Kreps, Daniel (September 24, 2018). "Weezer Recruit 'Weird Al' Yankovic for Video of Toto Cover 'Africa'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 24, 2018.
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  72. ^ Joel Whitburn's music yearbook 2003. Whitburn, Joel. Menomonee Falls, Wis.: Record Research. 2004. p. 91. ISBN 9780898201598. OCLC 57662663.CS1 maint: others (link)
  73. ^ "Singles". Billboard. March 31, 2007. p. 52.
  74. ^ "Karl Wolf". billboard.com. Archived from the original on August 15, 2015.
  75. ^ "Chuck Person: Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1". Spectrum Culture. December 4, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2017.
  76. ^ "Bacall & Malo - Africa". swedishcharts.com.
  77. ^ Reitman, Shelby. "Pitbull Puts an Oceanic Spin on Toto's 'Africa' for 'Aquaman' Soundtrack". Billboard. Retrieved December 15, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]