Africa (Toto song)
US 7-inch (180 mm) shaped picture disc edition
|Single by Toto|
|from the album Toto IV|
|Recorded||October 18, 1981|
|Toto singles chronology|
"Africa" is a song by the American rock band Toto. It was included on their fourth studio album Toto IV, and released as a single on September 30, 1982. It reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart on February 5, 1983 (the band's only Billboard number one), and number three on the UK Singles Chart the same month. The song was written and composed by the band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro.
The song saw a resurgence in popularity via social media during the 2010s. In the midst of the song's growing popularity, the band Weezer recorded a cover version in 2018 that peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. In the U.S., the single was initially certified gold by the RIAA in 1991. However, since its renewed popularity, sales of both the original Toto single and the Weezer cover have surged, with the original single certified platinum in 2017, and most recently 4x Platinum in October 2018.
The initial idea and lyrics 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."
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.
In 2015, Paich explained that the song is about a man's love of a continent, Africa, rather than just a personal romance. In 2018, Paich explained the song is about a person flying in to meet a lonely missionary. As a child, Paich attended a Catholic school. Several of the teachers had done missionary work in Africa, and this became the inspiration behind the line "I bless the rains down in Africa."
Paich was playing around with a new keyboard and found the brassy sound that became the opening riff. He started humming a melody and by the chorus, the words just came to him.
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.
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. [...] 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!
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 influence of the drummers at the Africa pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair and a National Geographic Special.
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.
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. It was also the last song recorded and barely made the album. The band was more focused on the album's lead single "Rosanna" instead.
The music video was directed by Steve Barron. 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 natives in the surrounding jungle begin to close in on the library. When the researcher finds a book titled Africa, the native throws a spear (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.
Although the song was popular upon its release, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1983, the song has retained cultural popularity throughout the 21st century in the U.S. The song has been utilized in many internet memes, as well as making appearances in popular television shows, such as Stranger Things and South Park, and being used by CBS during their coverage of the funeral of former South African president Nelson Mandela, albeit not without controversy. In 2012, "Africa" was listed by music magazine NME in 32nd place on its list of "50 Most Explosive Choruses."
- David Paich – lead and backing vocals, synthesizer, piano
- Bobby Kimball – lead and backing vocals
- Steve Lukather – electric guitar, backing vocals
- Steve Porcaro – synthesizers
- David Hungate – bass guitar
- Jeff Porcaro – drums, cowbell, gong, additional percussion
- Lenny Castro – congas, shakers, additional percussion
- Timothy B. Schmit – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Joe Porcaro – percussion, marimba
- Jim Horn – recorders
Charts and certifications
Sales and certifications
|Single by Weezer|
|Released||May 29, 2018|
|Weezer singles chronology|
In December 2017, Twitter user "@WeezerAfrica," run by a 14-year-old Cleveland, Ohio resident Mary Klym, 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" in response to the popularity of the song. Weezer released "Africa" on May 29, 2018. It was the band's first Hot 100 hit since 2009. "Africa" 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.
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.
Shortly after the song's release, Weezer appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! along with keyboardist Steve Porcaro of Toto to promote the single. On August 9, 2018, Toto responded by releasing a cover of Weezer's 2001 single "Hash Pipe", after debuting it in concert a week prior.
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.
|Canada Rock (Billboard)||33|
|Mexico Ingles Airplay (Billboard)||42|
|US Billboard Hot 100||51|
|US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)||19|
|US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)||3|
|US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)||5|
|US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)||26|
- 2002: Ja Rule sampled the song on his song "Murder Reigns" taken from his fourth studio album The Last Temptation.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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