4 March 2004 2004 nian 3 yue 4 hao

Editorial: Toto's Africa

Songs often mean different things to different people, and sometimes a person's interpretation of a song says more about the listener themself than the song lyrics. I was in highschool when I first heard Toto's song Africa, and at that time I thought it was about poverty and famine! To tell the truth, I don't think I took into account any of the actual lyrics in coming to that conclusion.

I recently rediscovered the song, and this time I imagine that the singer has come to Africa with the intention of staying just a few months. His girlfriend didn't accompany him, but they made plans for her to come after he finished his work in Africa, seizing the opportunity to travel around the "Dark Continent" together for a few weeks before returning to their home country. But, as Burns wrote, the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.

Have a listen to the song while I explain the lyrics verse by verse...

I hear the drums echoing tonight,
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation.

A phone call on the day before her flight. She talks about flight numbers, her last day at work before taking leave, her family, and so on. It brings back memories of his old, mundane life which already seems so long ago. For him, even this conversation fades into the background compared to the sense of mystery and excitement that he feels in Africa. Are the drums that he mentions real? It doesn't matter—sometimes the newcomer is more aware of the authenticity of the culture around him or her than even the locals are, and the drums here symbolise Africa's tribal heritage (listen out for the bongos in the song's intro).

She's coming in, twelve-thirty flight,
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation.

His heart is torn between her and Africa. Even as he watches her plane land, the newly familiar constellations of the southern sky make him think about the changes he has undergone in these few short months. This process, which he calls "salvation", has begun but not yet finished.

I stopped an old man along the way,
Hoping to find some long forgotten words or ancient melodies.

Borrowing from the "tribal Africa" theme introduced in the first line of the song, here we encounter the image of the wise elder. Did the singer really come across this enigmatic figure on the way to an arrival-hall reunion with his girlfriend? In a sense, yes, but the occasion was months ago and the "old man" was Africa itself.

Although he might not have admitted it even to himself, the singer came to Africa with the romantic notion of learning something from the continent, some ancient secret that had already been "long forgotten" in his own materialistic modern society. (This is, of course, precisely the search for authenticity and spiritual rejuvination which fuels the new-age movement. But let us hope that the singer has not been side-tracked by Ashanti dolls and visits to Zulu shamens).

He turned to me as if to say,
Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you.

Africa didn't serve up "enlightenment" on a silver platter. But experiencing a different culture made him rethink his own values, and overcoming the challenges of a new environment meant changing himself. Africa didn't offer him wise teachings from the past, instead there was only a long process of self-reflection and change awaiting him if he had the courage to pursue it.

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you,
It's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.

He still loves her. These months apart have reconfirmed or perhaps even strengthened that. Nothing could force him to leave her. But the thought on his mind is, what if he has to choose between her and Africa? Without exerting any kind of force, just by its mere existence, Africa might do what a hundred men or more could never do.

I bless the rains down in Africa.
It's gonna take some time to do the things we never had. (sic)

The singer invokes the image of rain, a classic symbol of rebirth and cleansing. But he follows immediately with a request for more time—remember that his "salvation" is not yet complete. I think "the things we never had" in the second line refers to the new experiences that he never even imagined before coming to Africa. Importantly, the pronoun is "we", because the singer doesn't want to choose between her and Africa: he hopes she will stay with him there. For how long? He doesn't give a specific length of time, but nor does he say "forever". All he knows is that now is too early to return.

In the second verse, naturalistic imagery replaces cultural references as the singer realises that his "rebirth" cannot occur within the parameters of any one culture:

The wild dogs cry out in the night,
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company.

The singer sympathises with the conflicting emotions that he imagines in the wild dogs' howls. He needs more time alone with his thoughts, and can't stand the idea of returning to the hustle and bustle of his home country. And yet he doesn't want to be a hermit—he misses her.

I know that I must do what's right,
Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.

Of course he should do what's right, but he isn't sure exactly what that is! The moralistic tone of the first line makes one think of his duty to his girlfriend, yet the image that comes to his mind is of the majestic Kilimanjaro. Is it right for his instinctive attraction to this land to overshadow the obligations that society places on him?

I seek to cure what's deep inside,
Frightened of this thing that I've become.

Here is the final irony. Living in his highly developed society, he feels that deep inside he has become some kind of monster, and only by exploring outside the bounds of culture can he "recivilise" himself.

The chorus repeats, but later there is a single line:

Hurry boy, she's waiting there for you.

He is on the verge of meeting her at the airport. She is waiting for him, but so is Africa. If he chooses Africa instead of her, he will miss out on the experiences that they could have had in each other's company. So of course his hope is that she will agree to stay with him in Africa so that they can grow and change together.

This is my understanding of the song. I don't claim that it is the correct one, or the only one. And I must confess that I don't really know much about Africa, although coincidentally I was born there—my parents lived in South Africa for five years. I must confess that I don't know much about their experiences there either, because I never felt much interest until I too came to live in a foreign country. I wonder what my parents think this song is about.


Sometimes you can hear the drums echo in China too. I once saw a group of about twenty drummers on the pavement outside a building, all dressed up in red, arranged in rank and file, and creating quite a ruckus. They were there to help celebrate the opening of a new business, and apart from being very loud they were also quite impressive the way not only their drum beats but also their flamboyant arm movements were synchronised. This goes some way to explaining why, during a guessing game in one of my classes, some students didn't classify drumming as a kind of music but more like a kind of sport. There is even a traditional dance in Shanxi province where the dancers beat drums tied to their waists. The drummers I saw used a few different kinds of drum, including big ones like in this (unrelated) picture:

Drummer and Dancers

cool and right comment!
01.07.2004 , 15:42

Great analysis! Quit enlightening. I have loved this song my entire childhood. My mom owned the Toto LP so I remember hearing it at an early age of 4 or 5. I'm now 25. There is another song that would be cool to do an analysis on. It's by Electric Light Orchestra. It's called "Jungle" with that chorus that goes..."luka luka hoo na ne..." See what you think.
09.07.2004 , 09:18

I am quite young in comparison to most of the people who enjoy this particular band. But ironically enough, my current boyfriend was born and raised in South Africa and has recently moved to my country but wants to return to his Africa. One day while randomly listening to aol music, i stumbled upon this song. Never heard it before in my life. He is torn between me-the girl he loves and beautiful, majestic Africa-the country he loves. This song is like an anthem to my life right now and I absolutely love the fact that I can relate to a song in such a way. Thanks Toto!
21.08.2004 , 06:36

I like this interpretation.
Matthias [homepage]
01.09.2004 , 18:53

Most songs are good, rap is terrible and then there are songs like Africa that grab my heart and turn it upside down.
The music is absolutely brilliant and the song writing is mystic.
This will be a Toto classic for eons
07.11.2004 , 18:41

It's funny, I rediscovered this song recently and listen to it in my car during reflective drives. I love enterpreting songs and I had the EXACT same enterpretation, with a few insignificant exceptions.

1. "i hear the drums echoing tonight" - drums throughout history in music have often been used to symbolize conflict, as well as the beating heart. I feel it's probably both at once here.

2. "she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation" - I believe this sets the imagery of the long, overseas flight. The sterile, cold environment of hundreds of strangers piled into a tin can, few speaking to one another, almost zombie like as they hurl through the air.

3. the old man - I find the idea of the old man being a personification of Africa interesting. This may grow on me as I had not considered it. Either way, if the man was real, he still embodies those same philosophies of the journey ahead instead of the easy answers behind.

4. first chorus - I believe that this is his refrain from his old life. He professes his love for her. He is convincing himself, trying to focus on how he wants to be with her. "Nothing can take me away from her.. right?" The end of the chorus finds him making a promise to her that now that his work is done, they can relax and enjoy life together. Your "rain" comments were right on, but I think the first time around, he thinks that Africa has cleansed him to help him return home and get on with his life, a rite of passage fulfilled.

5. "wild dogs cry out in the night" - again, I think the dogs are real, but still representative to him. He hears it and wonders if everything in Africa must go through this lonely journey of discovery.

6. "I know that I must do what's right" - I think he knows what this is at this point. I think he knows that he needs to complete this. That if his Love for her is real, it will endure. There is no turning back. It's as steadfast and unignorable as a mountain in the middle of a desert.

7. Second chorus - art frequently does this, it repeats the same theme but allows you to see something difference (McMaster & James "I Understand" is a brilliant example of this). The second time around, he isn't single about her anymore, he's singing about Africa.

8. "Hurry boy she's waiting there for you" - Now that he has resolved himself to the journey, Africa whispers a last reminder to him. "Don't take too long. As important as this journey is, it is easy to lose yourself in it and forget her forever. Never turn your back on Love. She will wait for you."

Thanks for indulging me. Great to find this page. Great job.
Jeff Bray
19.11.2004 , 08:57

21.11.2004 , 05:08

I've known this song since I was in diapers, I am writing a paper on it for school and never stopped the emotional power of the song to actually analyze the song. Looking for some sort of direction I came across your interpretation... WOW... The emotional impact this song had on me before was so intense occasionally I had to fight a tear, but now that I have a better understanding it means that much more. Thank you, you gentle soul.
04.12.2004 , 11:50

Wonderful analysis to a fantastic song... I'm only 19 but I grew up with the track and its mystical lyrics, and rediscovered it after Ja Rule succesfully covered it. Great job mate well done to you.
17.01.2005 , 07:42

Fantastic analysis and excellent appreciation of one of the greatest pieces of music, and art, ever. As enchanting as the the song. Well done! Thank you for sharing it with us.
24.01.2005 , 03:37

Great analysis, I think it pretty much covers what the song is about. Maybe you're right that different people may interpret the song in another way but the way you see it, is similar to the way I see it.

Nice job!
08.02.2005 , 19:49

Wow! I am so glad I stumbled on this site! For some reason this song just brings out a certain spiritual side of me ...no other song does!

Beautiful interpretation of what has to be one of the most emotionally charged songs ever and one that will be a favourite of mine for the rest of my life.

Great work!
07.03.2005 , 00:51

Good interpretation. I heard this song for the first time on the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City game. I'm African and this song makes me really proud of Africa.
07.03.2005 , 17:17

WOW!! I am not an English native speaker. I've been listen to this song since I was 17 (I'm 32).Today, I was in a caffee and they played the song on the radio...I was not sure about the lyric so I surfed the net and I found this editorial...I'd never imagined such a wonderful meaning! thank you for sharing this with us.
08.03.2005 , 23:52

very nice interpretation. thanks for sharing!
12.03.2005 , 15:07

I have loved this song since childhood and have recently bought the album specifically for this song! I always believed this to be a love song (i.e "It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you") but I was blown away by this interpretation. Why? I'm married to a North African who is pround of his heritage and often speaks fondly of his homeland. I totally agree with the sentiment given by Bianca. Your interpretation has provided me with the connection between my favourite song and my favourite person,(my husband). I have always believed that my husband & I were kismet, but this website just confirms it. Thank you!
14.03.2005 , 21:43

Hi... It's fun to see this side of the "Africa" track... i've been fan of TOTO since i was born...! i'am only 16 but TOTO has been a big part of my life... I play music my self and has been inspired by these guys; Paich, Lukather, Porcaro brothers and Simon Phillips!!! I love you guys! just a funny story; TOTO themselves thought that "Africa" was't the best track and cosideret wheater this should be on the album or not! it did reach the Album "TOTO IV" and it won several Grammys 83'!!! TOTO ROCKS see you this sommer in Silkeborg!!!
26.03.2005 , 21:03

I have loed this song for years and have played it over a hundred times. been to africa 11 countries and see a different meaning to it. one based upon him descovering big game hunting and scared of this thing that hes become. Once its in your blood to hunt big dangerous game there is a sense of being alive and not wanting to ever go back to a mundane life in the city. thats why there is nothing more than a hundred men or more could ever do.
07.04.2005 , 14:50

Thank you for this great review. The spirit of Africa is sometning that our western world lacks. It is my wish to visit Africa, and see Kilimanjaro. I hope that one day, I will see my dream come true.

And once more, great interpretation!
Dejan from Serbia
16.04.2005 , 18:02

Here's my interpretation.
He's dieing for a shag as he hasn't been able to touch the local girls for 3 months as they all have aids.
He asked an old Maasai guy for directions to the airport, but his inability to understand Swahili meant the guy thought he wanted to go to the local soccer field instead of the airport. This then leads on to the chorus of him battling to get away from 100 men at the soccer game who wont let him go until he buys them all a soda.
The rains are a blessing as the 3inchs that falls in 24 hours washes the game out, as well as half of the mud brick houses in Arusha leaving him a clear path to the airport.
Unfortunately, the wild dogs are all dead. The dogs he hears are all inbred pieces of sinew and bones that roam the streets looking for cheap eats - and he is one.
After massacaring the pack of starved animals that has chased him to KIA airport with a panga, he finally questions what the hell he is doing in Africa, obviously 'frightened by the thing he has become'.
She is waiting there for him, better get on that before you go nuts.
Oh, and if you're keen on climbing Kili, you better do it quick as the park fees are going up %300 in July as some people in government need to cars.
Bob from Tanzania
19.04.2005 , 14:03

We want to know when this song was written
24.04.2005 , 13:50

From Toto themselves about the song Africa;

The initial idea for this song came from David Paich, playing on his piano. Jeff 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. Geographically it doesn't make sense... The Kilimanjaro isn't near the river named in the song."

Musically the song took quite some time to assemble, as David and Jeff explain below.
David Paich on the Yamaha keyboards used:
"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." (Keyboard, 09/1995)

Jeff Porcaro reminices about how the song's drumparts were created:
"I was about 11 when the New York Worlds's Fair took place, and I went to the African pavillion 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. The thing that blew my mind was everybody was playing one part. As a little kid in Connecticut, I would see these Puerto Rican and Cuban cats jamming in the park. It was the fiest 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 of all drummers. But I just love a band of guys saying one thing. That's why I loved marching band, 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 bass drum on 1, the & of 2, and 3. 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 playd 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 that went 'round and 'round and 'round. The Linn machine was available to us. 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 turn-arounds, 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.

28.04.2005 , 03:06

i cannot believe that you people are dissecting this absolute tripe.
richard cook
29.04.2005 , 05:56

I am going through this in my own way. In a way, the song is very comforting. South Africa, or me? Its so ironic. The only thing... It doesnt give me an answer! Beautiful song :)
Zinhle and Siba
12.05.2005 , 09:33

This is simply a beautiful song and a work of art as Toto express the true magical feeling of Africa and the mysteries of the Dark Continent. The irony is that I live in Kwazulu Natal – South Africa, and my friend named Toto loves this song. The good news is that Africa is still alive. We will often play this track while playing a game of pool in the Shabeen (Bar) in the rural part of Zulu land.
27.05.2005 , 15:05

This song is cool but unfortunately its covert homosexual under tones make it slightly wrong and even comical. I think that rather than convincing yourselves that this song is about the beautiful "Dark Continent" try to see its real subliminal lyrical content.

-He turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you"

Well, what do you think is waiting for him? My guess is that its probaly his tight ass or even a substantial member.

-It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you. There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

Ok, Obviously the man (Justin, shall we say) is quite happy with what he is receiving from his new boyfriend (Brian Kenny). Brian must be a very fluent bed if not even 100 men could drag Justin away.

-The wild dogs cry out in the night, as they grow restless longing for some solitary company

All the gay guys (wild dogs) are crying out with lust. They all really want some quiet (solitary) time with Brian

-I know that I must do what's right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serangetti.

Justin knows he must do what his genetic make up is telling him to do, and that is too make love to Brian.

-As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serangetti

Well, this is just describing Justin's flacid member becoming erect.

-I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become

Justin is still a little afraid of 'dark side' which is partially hidden behind the closet door. He knows he is becoming a true 'fag' but is having problems dealing with it.

Ok this is only a rough run down of the song but you get the picture. I have to reiterate that I do like this song (its even on my ipod)but it is heaps gay.
Billy The Kid
04.06.2005 , 20:49

Stoked to find this page.

Grew up listening to this song....wasn't sure if I liked it or not. It was always just there on the radio.

As I got older and learnt more about music and songwriting, I came to realise it is one of the most amazing, intricately crafted songs ever constructed. Just like Billy The Kid, it's now on my iPod. And while I'm not prejudiced and fearful of homosexual people like our Billy clearly is, I don't believe it has much to do with anything other than the original interpretation at the top of this page.

My interpretation, which seems to be backed up by "unofficial" lyric sites, is that the line "It's gonna take some time to do the things we never have" I think is actually "Gonna take the time" - ie he is resolving to spend time with her and stop running from what he knows is the right thing for him to do.

"I stopped an old man along the way" - I look at this in real-time. He is on the way to the airport, but being a pro musician who is in Africa to learn about African rythyms, he takes the opportunity talk to a elderly local. After a brief chat, the old man realises that his girlfriend is flying in and is incredulous.."Are you nuts???!! Why are you talking to me about music theory when the inspiration for music - LOVE - is waiting there for you! See a shrink dude!"

Incredible song.
04.07.2005 , 20:47

A wonderful song---and even more wonderful if you actually understand the lyrics. For years and years I thought the line "I bless the rains down in Africa" was "I test the rains down in Africa" -I thought the singer must be some kind of scientist working for an international agency. Anyway....... I enjoyed your analysis of the song.
06.07.2005 , 20:23

Always interesting to know what others think of lyrics. It has always been a "mind video" song for me. I see the entire song unfold like a video in my head ... it is the cry of a man who is actually a werewolf who had retreated to Africa to hide. He is going to take the chance to allow the woman he loves to join him after fleeing from her side. She did not know what it was that had happened to him or where he went. The old man is a shaman and has the answers he seeks but will not give him. He must find the answer of his existance within himself and how to deal with it. The wild dogs cry out because he has left them to join her. They wish only to have his solitary leadership and not have him stray from the pack. He loves her so much he will risk the chance that even mankind would hunt him down. Yet he feels that her humanity ... her love will cure him or allow him to control "this thing" he has become. She is his salvation. Love is what separates us from the animals and that is what he seeks to regain his soul. The old shaman tells him "hurry boy she's waiting there for you" ... finally gives him a hint as to how to find his "cure." The rains that finally fall after the long hot season allow him to stand crying for the first time as he sees her plane coming in across the veldt. He is being cleansed ....blessed... baptised and allowed time regain the things on which he turned his back.
21.07.2005 , 21:16

i was playing GTA:Vice City when i first heard this song. i love catchy and sping tingling music such as orchestra n such and this song came close. good song.
24.07.2005 , 00:00

I have to agree with billy on this. I had heard a couple of years ago that this song was about a man coming out of the closet and he was meeting his girlfriend to tell her. I was skeptical at first, but someone I deeply respect told me the same thing over a couple of adult beverages.

Bottom line, it is still a good song and I have heard a couple of bands cover it, which lends creadence to that fact.
30.08.2005 , 00:22

For starters I have to say I love all kinds of music but that this song has been my all time favorite song for about 20 years, since I was an early teen. Before even knowing the words, the music alone has such an amazing sound. I too have spent a lot of time creating a story or as someone else said, a video in my mind, of what this song is about. I have driven every friend of mine crazy trying to get them to see, feel, and hear what I do, but have brought a few over to my side.

Anyways, the original interpretation above is closest to the story I envision in my mind but I think the most significant line in the song is, "Hurry boy she's waiting there for you." Our understanding or even confusion of what is occurring becomes clear in this one line. Listen to the musical interlude leading up to it, the music tells you that something is about to be revealed. What is most key is tha the first time this lyric is sung, he says, "Hurry boy IT'S waiting there for you," so we are left with a question throughout the remainder of the song, what is IT? This is what the man in the story is trying to figure out, whether it is what is the point of life, love, his travels, he is trying to make sense of something and then he realizes, "Hurry boy SHE'S waiting there for you." The word is changed and so is he. Now he gets it. I also think the chorus is foreshadowing of what is to come.

I had always wanted to hear this song live, by Toto and since I had never gone to their concert when I was a teen, I thought it was something that could never happen. I don't want to sound too dramatic but, it was a great wish of mine. Anyways, last year I was driving through Atlanta to visit some friends when I heard on the radio, just as I was arriving into town, that Toto was to be playing that night. I couldn't believe it! Of course they sang Africa :) I love that there are people out there who see the beauty that I see in this song.
30.08.2005 , 10:41

For years, this song has made me feel deep and heartfelt thoughts. Even when I wastched the movie Rwanda this song came into my head. I had thoughts of a young black man heading out to war, fighting for his country, for freedom. The drums were drums of war, and the girl he left behind was thinking of him, during the night when they should be together. The old man he stops to talk to is the tribal chieftan, thanking him and blessing him. When the phrase SHe is waiting there for you... means that she is faithful and she waits for him, don't waste time, you never know when you will have to leave again. The dogs is in reference to the soldiers, that hunt for these tribal men, trying to hunt down and kill these brave young men. When he says its going to take alot to drag me away from you, he's refering to death. There's nothing more that a hundred men or more could do, is simple, its his tribes men, and there is nothing more they can do than try to save their people from destruction. Whether or not Olympus resides beside Kilamanjaro is neither here nor there... a dream of hope just like a river where it isn't is what he is hoping for, to survive another day to live and see a long life is all he wants, for himself and his people. The phrase;I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that
I've become...well who wouldn't you've had to kill another human, and the blood on your hands takes the rains to wash it away, never mind the memories in your mind of what you have seen and done.
This is my interpretation of the song, and to this day its what I still feel the song represents to me. Thanks for the opportunity to hear and believe.
03.09.2005 , 00:49

Guess Africa will be one of those songs that will last for over centuries. It's made for eternity, the band, funnily enough, not being aware of that at the time when they recorded it.
I remember kind of a contest on the official toto99.com - website a while ago where the band chose their favourite interpretation handed in by the fans.
Not only being one of my all time favourites, I also met several people, quite often with a history with Africa, to whom it has a very special place in their hearts.
Well, this is pure art, isn't it?
J. Kent
15.10.2005 , 02:41

Guess Africa will be one of those songs that will last for over centuries. It's made for eternity, the band, funnily enough, not being aware of that at the time when they recorded it.
I remember kind of a contest on the official toto99.com - website a while ago where the band chose their favourite interpretation handed in by the fans.
Not only being one of my all time favourites, I also met several people, quite often with a history with Africa, to whom it has a very special place in their hearts.
Well, this is pure art, isn't it?
J. Kent
15.10.2005 , 02:44

I agree with Kaeljia. I thought that the song was about him going off to war. I like both interpretations of the song!
22.10.2005 , 11:45

I need to hear the song Africa now!
30.10.2005 , 15:24

believe the song Africs makes as much sense as a 3 dollar bill. On another note, who cares? But if its really for you wondering why dont you ask the song writter? I bet he would say somthing along the lines of... "Well I was really drunk, it was raining, a dog was outside, and I hade the discovery channel on."
07.11.2005 , 08:54

doubt the song is about homosexuals but couldnt care less if it is. the song is amazing
10.11.2005 , 02:40

I've always loved this song. I've been hearing it since high school (I think!) but until I read your analysis, I never understood it. Thanks for taking such a pretty song, and giving it the respect and meaning it deserves. I will enjoy it so much more now.
12.12.2005 , 09:35

I had an experience with this song that is similar to yours. When I was younger, I liked it, but never thought much of it. Recently, I started hearing the words, and realized that the song really had some depth.

I wondered what the song was really about. Some of it seems obvious, but the reference to the old man was puzzling. I was interested to find your editorial online, and enjoyed reading it.

I totally agree with you about the old man. I think that interpretation makes perfect sense, and I love it.

I don't agree with you about the "quiet conversation." I think that at the time that he is hearing the drums, she is actually on the plane. She is hearing the "quiet conversation" of the other passengers.

It seems to me that the man is narrating, but they are both sharing a moment together.

I prefer not thinking about why the man came to Africa. I enjoy starting from the point that he is now there, and he's recovering from whatever pollution had poisoned his soul. His eyes are opening. He knows what is important to him now.

I don't really want to know for sure why the woman he loves is coming to him. I don't particularly care to know what divided them. It's always the same story, right?

Most important to me is that there's business between them strong enough to compel her to travel across the world to see him. They have both come to realize their feelings for each other.
12.12.2005 , 12:01

I always knew this song existed and never really "heard' until me and a friend of mine took a road trip. After playing it over and over I was confused about what the song was trying to tell me. I think the above interpretation is believable if a little over analytic. I think the meaning is much broader. It's a message about transition. Our lives are shaped by the transitions we go through. ALthough we form attachments that we think are forever....they seldom are. A child who for the first time goes to school full time, is often traumatized by the transition...but it is necessary. A high school kid who graduates and goes to college leaving their friends, family, entire life behind. A young person, who loses what they thought would be their soul mate forever. These are all life changing, emotional transitions that seem negative at the time they happen. But often, looking back we realize that those transitions, and how we reacted to them shape the person we are today and the world have made for ourselves. This song overall, is about realizing that change is inevitable and the trick is to slow down, and appreciate where you've been, where you are, and where you are going. Maybe?.......
20.01.2006 , 01:09

Very nice interpretation.
Although I didn’t grow up with this song I just love it.
My mother ones played it in her car and since then I am totally into Africa and TOTO.
This is probably one of the best songs they ever wrote besides some other absolutely beautiful songs like “I will remember” , “Gift of Faith”, “99”, “Angela”, “Georgy porgy”, “Rosanna”, and, and, and.
I hope you get my point.
Ricardo [homepage]
25.01.2006 , 14:12

I just heard this song for the first time in a while on "Scrubs" (5.06) and I appreciate everyone taking the time to break down the lyics. Great song, even after all this time, it still doesn't feel dated.
30.01.2006 , 03:04

This song is ledgendary, heard it of the GTA VICE city soundtrack, its a cool song and definately NOT GAY lol
31.01.2006 , 07:22

I have enjoyed this song for many years, without thinking all that much about the lyrics or the meaning.
Although I do find the 'gay'interpretation interesting, I don't believe it to be true.
I found this site after a discussion with my brother about the line: "I bless the rains down in ..."
I thought it was "miss the rains", & he was sure it was "I guess it rains".
I looked it up & here I am.
After reading all of these, I have a lot more respect & gratitude for this beautiful piece of music.
02.02.2006 , 06:01

Always loved this song - before emigrating from South Africa, we knew this song will forever make us crunch with sadness ...
02.02.2006 , 13:45

Why so much fuss about one song from a forgotten band of the 80’s……Why so much fuss?….because in my opinion it is the greatest song ever written and arranged by the greatest band there ever was (and still is )…

These are all very good interpretations of a wonderful song, well done. Even the “gay” one has some merit…probably not… but still amusing….heheheh. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter…

Most people that know me know that Toto is my favourite band and a lot of people would ask: why Toto. Why not the Rolling stones or U2 or Nirvana or something. I’ll try to explain. Firstly, I’m a professional musician, and I think 90% of Toto fans are musicians; It’s what draws a lot of people to Toto. All the members of Toto are infact very talented session musicians. Three of the members were part of Boz Scagg’s band, including the drummer: the late Jeff Porcaro. I am a drummer and you might have guessed it, Jeff was one of my favourites. He wrote the lyrics to Africa and came up with the idea of the looped drum pattern for that song, probably the first person to do it ( remember this was 1982 and you can read about this in an earlier comment). He was one of the most respected drummers at that time and played on hundreds of recordings. He played with everybody from Bruce Springsteen to Barbara Streisand to Boz Scaggs!! You can go to http://www.povlab.org/jeff.porcaro/ for more about Jeff and his full discography or http://www.toto99.com/disco/disco.shtml for the other band member’s discographies.
Anyway, enough about Jeff and a bit more on Toto and the song Africa.
Toto have written some pretty good songs over the years…Africa, although the most known, is definitely not a “one-off”. Their fourth album, “Toto IV” won 6 Grammy awards and also contained another legend song “Rosanna”. I will not even attempt to go into how good a song Rosanna is ( the complex drum groove, the brilliant and extremely difficult vocals and guitar solo etc..etc..). For those who like the song Africa, I suggest listening to some other Toto tunes…there’s 13 Albums to choose from. There’s Rock, jazz, groove, funk, ballads, fusion, slow songs, fast songs, simple songs, complex songs, something for everybody. If you are a musician, I definitely recommend it and if you aren’t, I still recommended it. If you ever get a chance to see them live – do it, their musicianship is worth it alone. As for songs to listen to try: “Mushanga” ( from the album: “The Seventh One” ), written by Jeff and David Paich ( the same authors of Africa ), it is also about Africa and is sometimes referred to as “the younger cousin of Africa”. It also contains tribal beats, a beautiful keyboard solo and a killer chorus. “I will remember” ( from the Tambu album ) is another with tribal drums, a killer chorus, stylish piano and haunting vocal parts. And by the way, there is new Toto album due out on the 14th of February, 2006 and it has been said that it contains an “Africa” like song called “Bottom of Your Soul” and they’ve nick-named it “Africa 2”. I doubt it will be as good as the Africa, but I’m still looking forward to hearing it and the rest of the album.

I was introduced to Toto in high school by some musician friends when I was learning drums and guitar. They told me that if I wanted to hear what good music and musicians sound like I should listen to bands like Dire straits, Journey and Toto. Dire Straits, I already knew and appreciated, Journey I would discover later ( even though they are not heard of here in my native country of Australia ) and Toto, I’d heard of and already knew and liked the songs Africa and Rosanna. So I bought a “best of:” CD ( “Toto – Past to Present” ) and had a listen an thought…”Oh yeah, they sing that 99 song, and the, some would say annoying, Georgy Porgy song….and Hold the Line..I know these songs…and how does he do some of these drum beats?? …how did he learn to play guitar so well??….how the hell does he hit that many notes perfectly when he sings that line in Rosanna???…How come it sounds like its all done with computers…so perfectly in time…this stuff is great I want to hear more”..and I did, I bought all their CDs and discovered more amazing songs and more mind-expanding musicianship. I guess you could say I’ve been hooked ever since.

I hear the drums echoing tonight…..

A lot has been written about the lyrics on this page so I won’t go there. I will, however, say that they are great lyrics and provide the listener with a lot of imagery. Every time I hear the introductory keyboards, I see desert plains and heat rising…and than some one looking out at a moonlit wing-tip… . I will instead try to explain what makes the music great.

So what makes Africa a great song?…where do you start?…start with the basics.

Great song structure: Intro, subtle 1st Verse, BIG Chorus, Intro, 2nd Verse ( half the length of the first Verse so that you don’t tire of it ), BIG Chorus ( that you are hanging out to hear again ), intro, solo with that vocal line again (“hurry boy, she’s…..”), extended chorus ( by now you want to hear more of it ), outro (same as intro which rounds it out nicely with a fade-out ). All done before in lots of other songs but it just works. If there were one thing I would have done to improve the song (its pretty much perfect anyway), it would be to have the drums at the start fade-in, instead of just start. This would give the song a sort of physical dimension like moving towards song or players then moving away as it fades out of ear-shot….like the song never ends, it goes away and comes back again….I love fade-outs!

The Chord progression: not too complex, not too simple but very accessible. If you play an instrument pick it up and play these chords: F#m, D, A, E….( these are the chords in the chorus …very nice progression ) once again its been used before but works very well.

Great sounds: very “comforting” and smooth sounding keyboard sounds, piano, exotic sounding Marimbas, congas and shakers, subtle distorted guitar parts, 5 string bass guitar for greater depth.

The Drums: classy, not over-played and instantly recognizable. The tribal thing…congas, cowbells, the gong ,various other African drums and a powerful sounding snare drum in the chorus.

The playing: an awesome bass line, the tricky little keyboard riff in the intro ( the marimbas, or bells ), the stylish drum fill leading into the first chorus, the magnificent keyboard solo ( which took me hours to work out) and those great 4 part vocal harmonies in the chorus.

Add some great lyrics: a story of love and adventure, and you have a truly amazing song.
A song that can give you spine-tingles. A song that you want to sing or strum along to. A song you just want to listen to again and again to hear all great sounds and intricacies. And one that stays in your head long after the drums have faded off in the distance.

Well, I’ve ranted on long enough, hope I didn’t put you to sleep….just wanted to share some views…..bye for now,

Matt - Australia
Matt [homepage]
12.02.2006 , 00:57

Africa – trivia and other useless information:

Africa was written and performed by the LA-based band: “Toto”, which is made up of Studio/session musicians. Between them they have played on thousands of recordings for artists like Michael Jackson, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen and many, many more big names. It has been estimated that if you were listening to a radio in the 80’s, every tenth song you heard would have had a member of Toto playing on it….most probably Jeff, the drummer!

Africa is a song from the multiple Grammy award-wining Album: Toto IV, it was also a number one hit in the USA.

The Co-writer and (former) drummer of Toto died in 1992, from a heart attack caused by an allergic reaction he had from some pesticides he was using in his garden…..So in true “Spinal Tap” form,…he died in a bizarre gardening accident!

Africa was probably the first song to use a sound/drum loop. The drummer and percussionists (congas) recorded a beat together, took the best 4 seconds of it, looped it (repeated it through the whole song) and then Jeff, the drummer, played more “real” drums over the top.

If you listen very carefully at the start, when just the drums are playing, you can hear Jeff laughing.

There are many instruments/sounds used in the song, these include: drums, bass, keyboards, piano, guitar, congas, cow bells, shakers, a gong cymbal, marimbas and recorders (in the 2nd verse).

Unlike most songs which are in a 4/4 time signature and count: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4…, this song is in 2/4 time signature, that is: you count 1 2 1 2 1 2…..this is a bit rare.

The main vocalist in the song is Keyboard player and Co-writer: David Paich. He is only a “part-time” singer in the band and is usually only heard on 1 or 2 tracks of each Toto album. Their “full time” singer: Bobby Kimball can be heard in the chorus. Toto have a third singer: guitarist, Steve Lukather. Steve can heard sing the first lines in the song “Rosanna” and on “99” and “Georgy Porgy”.

Timothy B. Schmitt, the Bassist/Vocalist, from The Eagles, also did vocals in the chorus

Over the Years Toto have had 4 different Lead singers. Aswell as Lukather, who took over lead vocal duties for 2 albums.

Africa very nearly didn’t make it on the album, Toto didn’t think it was right for them at the time and its main writer was going to save for his own solo project….phew!!

Africa was used in beer commercial in South Africa.

Toto have new CD to be released on the 14th of February 2006. On it is a song they have dubbed “Africa 2” because of it’s resemblence to the original Africa. Also there is an awsome song on the Toto album: “the Seventh One” (1988) called “Mushanga”, which has the same style as Africa. If you like the song Africa, you’ll like this one too. Get a copy and have a listen if you can.

If you play Africa backwards, it sounds a bit like the song: “Africa”, only backwards.
matt [homepage]
12.02.2006 , 03:05

I think about once every 10 years, a song comes along that has a beautiful, mystical, and virtually universal appeal. Coldplay's 'Clocks' comes to mind for recent recordings. No doubt, Africa is in the category. These songs are rare, because they manage to combine the very best of lyrics that touch the heart and soul, with music that fills the mind and body. Like great poetry, songs like this are interpreted and analyzed, as was so beautifully done here. What's more, it is a correct interpretation, because the way a piece of poetry speaks to an individual, is by definition the meaning of the piece (despite the fact that each person my feel something completely different). In other words, no interpretation of this song can be incorrect- assuming an honest evaluation. After all, it is part of what makes a great work of art great. I mean are we going to find many blogs discussing the real meaning of 'I Saw Her Standing There'? (no offense to Beatles fans intended).

Thanks for your analysis. It is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
12.02.2006 , 04:57

I always found this to be such a beautiful song. However, I have always wondered just exactly what it is about. I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful interpretation of the song. The ideas that you have for what to song is about are very similar to what I was thinking. In fact, you led me to understand it much more clearly than I did before. Thanks!!!! :)
12.02.2006 , 17:18

Nice analysis - and nice to read all the love devoted to this wonderful song.

A thought: let's face it, the perfect fit of the line, "I bless the rains down in Africa" with its melody, and the soaring vocal-harmony parts, gives shivers to anyone with a soul, and the fact that it's preceded by a line pledging ultimate romantic devotion - well, it's an unbeatable combination, and the exquisite mood created by the introductory lyrics and the rapturous arrangement is a jewel-case for that jewel of a line - the "I bless," which is like a pure fountaining up of joy and love...
A song for always - I agree!
14.03.2006 , 10:32

As an African, I feel that your analysis is spot on. It sounds right.

I love this song!
16.04.2006 , 02:38

will always be one of my favourite songs...a very mysterious piece of art, requires some deep thought to comprehend and the melodies are very unique and organized. I like the fact that they use exotic instruments
27.04.2006 , 20:09

this song just makes me want to go into fantasy world...
it's like africa is a magical world.
is it ?
flea o mac
28.04.2006 , 17:06

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