Africa (Toto song)

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Toto - Africa.jpg
US 7-inch (180 mm) shaped picture disc edition
Single by Toto
from the album Toto IV
  • "Good for You"
  • "We Made It"
  • June 25, 1982 (UK)[1]
  • October 1982 (US)
RecordedOctober 18, 1981 (1981-10-18)
StudioSunset Sound (Hollywood)[2]
GenreSoft rock[3][4]
  • 4:55 (album version)
  • 4:21 (radio and video edit)
Toto singles chronology
"Make Believe"
"I Won't Hold You Back"
Music video
"Africa" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Africa" is a song by American rock band Toto, the tenth and final track on their fourth studio album Toto IV (1982). It was released as a single in the US through Columbia Records in October 1982, the album's third single overall and second in Europe. The song was written by band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, produced by the band, and mixed by Grammy-winning engineer Elliot Scheiner.

Critics praised its composition and Toto's performances. The song reached number one on the United States' Billboard Hot 100 chart, the band's only Billboard number one, and number one on the Canadian charts. It also peaked in the top ten in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia, 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,[5][6][7] including a fan-requested cover by American rock band Weezer which peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.[8] It has since been certified six times platinum.[9]


The initial idea and lyrics for the song came from David Paich. Paich was playing around with a new keyboard, the CS-80,[10] and found the brassy sound that became the opening riff. He completed the melody and lyrics for the chorus in about ten minutes, much to Paich's surprise. "I sang the chorus out as you hear it. It was like God channeling it. I thought, 'I'm talented, but I'm not that talented. Something just happened here!'"[11] Paich reckons that he refined the lyrics for six months before showing the song to the rest of the band.[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] He based the lyrics on a late night documentary with depictions of African plight and suffering. The viewing experience made a lasting impact on Paich: "It both moved and appalled me, and the pictures just wouldn't leave my head. I tried to imagine how I'd feel about it if I was there and what I'd do."[13] Jeff Porcaro elaborates further, explaining: "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."[14]

Some additional lyrics relate to a person flying in to meet a lonely missionary, as Paich described in 2018.[15] As a child, Paich attended a Catholic school; several of his teachers had done missionary work in Africa. Their missionary work became the inspiration behind the line: "I bless the rains down in Africa." Paich, who at the time had never set foot in Africa, based the song's landscape descriptions from an article in National Geographic.[15]

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.[16] Engineer Al Schmitt stated that "Africa" was the second song written for Toto IV and had been worked on extensively in the studio.[11] According to Steve Porcaro, it was the last song they recorded and barely made the cut.[16] At one point, Jeff Porcaro considered saving "Africa" for a solo album because some members did not think the song sounded like Toto.[17] The band was more focused on the album's lead single "Rosanna".[16]


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.[10] Porcaro programmed six tracks of a Yamaha GS 1 digital piano to emulate the sound of a kalimba.[10] Each track featured a one-three note gamelan phrase with different musical parameters.[10] 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. To recreate those sounds, he and his father Joe Porcaro made percussion loops on bottle caps and marimba respectively.[11][18]

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.

Music video[edit]

The music video used the radio edit and was directed by Steve Barron.[19] It 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 December 2021, the music video has over 773 million views on YouTube.[20][relevant?]

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 female librarian working at a nearby desk takes occasional notice of him, while a native carrying a shield that matches the picture begins to close in on the library from the surrounding jungle. When the researcher finds a book titled Africa, the native throws a spear at a bookshelf, 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.[20]


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,[21] has appeared in television shows, such as Stranger Things, Family Guy, Chuck, and South Park, and was used by CBS during their 2013 coverage of the funeral of former South African President Nelson Mandela, albeit not without controversy.[22][23] It was also included in the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City as part of the fictional Emotion 98.3 radio station.[24]

In 2012, "Africa" was listed by music magazine NME in 32nd place on its list of "50 Most Explosive Choruses."[25] 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. The installation is powered by solar batteries, allowing the song to be played indefinitely.[26] Two years later, the song reached 1 billion plays on the streaming site Spotify. In 2021, it was listed at No. 452 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Best Songs of All Time".[27]


Guest musicians[edit]


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[45] 10× Platinum 700,000double-dagger
Canada (Music Canada)[46] Gold 50,000^
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[47] 2× Platinum 180,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[48] 2× Platinum 140,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[49] Gold 10,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[50]
Physical single
Silver 250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[51]
Digital single
3× Platinum 1,800,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[52] 6× Platinum 6,000,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Weezer cover[edit]

In December 2017, Twitter user "@WeezerAfrica," run by 14-year-old Cleveland, Ohio resident Mary Klym,[53] tweeted, "@RiversCuomo it's about time you bless the rains down in Africa." The band released a cover of "Rosanna", a different Toto song (also part of the album Toto IV), in order to troll Klym and those clamoring for a version of "Africa".[54]

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.[55] "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.[56]

Weezer included the cover on their surprise release of the all-covers "Teal Album" in January 2019.[57]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Africa discography".
  2. ^ Schmitt, Al; Droney, Maureen (2018). Al Schmitt - On the Record: The Magic Behind the Music. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 118. ISBN 9781538137666.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Monger, James Christopher. "Toto – Hold the Line: The Best of Toto". AllMusic. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  5. ^ Annie Zaleski (August 13, 2017). "35 years after its release, Toto's "Africa" is more popular than ever". Salon.
  7. ^ Kayla Song & Jill Riley (October 1, 2019). "Interview: Steve Lukather of Toto talks about the enduring legacy of 'Africa'". The Current.
  8. ^ Zellner, Xander (June 13, 2018). "Weezer Returns to Hot 100 With Fan-Inspired Cover of Toto's 'Africa'". Billboard. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  9. ^ "Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America.
  10. ^ a b c d Kovarsky, Jerry (July 13, 2015). "TOTO: The Synth Statesmen of Progressive Pop Return". Keyboard. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d "Classic Tracks: Toto's "Africa"". August 2005. Archived from the original on July 1, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  12. ^ Melissa Locker (May 5, 2015). "Q&'80s: Toto's Dave Paich on Writing and Recording 'Africa'". (end paragraph 2 and 8). Archived from the original on June 25, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "Official TOTO Website - Releases". Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  14. ^ "Africa". Official TOTO Website. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  15. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (January 30, 2018). "Toto: how we made Africa". the Guardian.
  16. ^ a b c "Stryker Chats with Toto About Weezer 'Hash Pipe' Cover". Omny Studio (Podcast). KROQFM: On-Demand. July 28, 2018. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  17. ^ "Official TOTO Website - Encyclopedia". April 18, 2007. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  18. ^ Flans, Robyn (November 1988). "Jeff Porcaro: the feel of the music". Modern Drummer. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Alt URL Archived February 10, 2020, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Toto - "Africa"". Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
  20. ^ a b "Toto - Africa (Official Music Video)". YouTube. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  21. ^ "Toto's 'Africa': The mother of all memes is waiting there for you". Boston Globe. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  22. ^ "How Toto's 'Africa' Became the New 'Don't Stop Believin". Rolling Stone. October 31, 2018. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  23. ^ McFarland, Kevin. "Family Guy: "Viewer Mail #2"/"Internal Affairs"". TV Club. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  24. ^ "Song- GTA: Vice City Wiki Guide - IGN". IGN. Retrieved November 28, 2021.
  25. ^ "50 Most Explosive Choruses - #32 Toto - Africa". NME. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  26. ^ "Africa by Toto to play on eternal loop 'down in Africa'". BBC News. January 14, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  27. ^ Stone, Rolling; Stone, Rolling (September 15, 2021). "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  28. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  29. ^ "Toto – Africa" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  30. ^ "Toto – Africa" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  31. ^ "Toto – Africa" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts.
  32. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Africa". Irish Singles Chart.
  33. ^ "Toto – Africa" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  34. ^ "Toto – Africa". Top 40 Singles.
  35. ^ "Toto – Africa". Swiss Singles Chart.
  36. ^ "Toto: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  37. ^ "Toto Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  38. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2014). Cash Box Pop Hits 1952-1996. Sheridan Books, Inc. ISBN 978-0-89820-209-0.
  39. ^ "Toto Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  40. ^ "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart - 20 May 2013". Official New Zealand Music Chart. Recorded Music New Zealand. May 20, 2013. Archived from the original on May 7, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  41. ^ "SloTop50: Slovenian official singles weekly chart" (in Slovenian). SloTop50. Retrieved May 12, 2013.
  42. ^ "Listy bestsellerów, wyróżnienia :: Związek Producentów Audio-Video". Polish Airplay Top 100. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  43. ^ "The Cashbox Year End Charts:1983". Retrieved June 16, 2022.
  44. ^ "Talent Almanac 1984" (PDF). Billboard. Vol. 95, no. 52. December 24, 1983. p. TA-18. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  45. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2021 Singles" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
  46. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Toto – Africa". Music Canada.
  47. ^ "Danish single certifications". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  48. ^ "Italian single certifications – Toto – Africa" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved November 22, 2021. Select "2021" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Africa" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  49. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Toto – Africa". Recorded Music NZ.
  50. ^ "British single certifications – Toto". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Toto in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  51. ^ "British single certifications – Toto – Africa". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  52. ^ "American single certifications – Toto – Africa". Recording Industry Association of America.
  53. ^ McKinstry, Lee. "Teen Tweets Weezer Into Covering "Africa"". Cleveland Magazine. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  54. ^ Monroe, Jazz (May 24, 2018). "Weezer Cover Toto's "Rosanna," Trolling Viral Campaign for "Africa" Cover". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  55. ^ Goldberg, Benjamin. "Weezer's Toto cover is the band's biggest hit in a decade". The A.V. Club. Onion, Inc. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
  56. ^ "Alternative Songs: Top Alternative Songs Chart". Billboard. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  57. ^ "Weezer Surprise-Releases Covers Album". Variety. January 23, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]