Toto – Africa
I know that I must do what's right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what's deep inside
Frightened of this thing that I've become
At the end of October 1982 one of the most beautiful songs of the early 80s was released. Toto were at a fabulous moment in their great career; in April, they had released one of their best albums, “Toto IV”, with the overwhelming success of “Rosanna“, and a few months later “Make believe” had also been a success.
There was some discussion about which song to release as third single. Yes, because “Africa” at first did not convince even Toto themselves! And in fact they put it on the album as a sort of last chance, because they absolutely needed another song to close the album, and the final decision was imposed by a manager of CBS, their major, and finally the song made it to the album. Guitarist Steve Lukather remembers considering “Africa” to be the worst song on the album, convinced that it would never work, and that the lyrics were meaningless, but also adds that he was never able to predict which songs would impress the audience!
The song was inspired by keyboardist David Paich, who is in fact also the main character of the video and sings the verses (while Bobby Kimball sings the chorus). Paich was impressed by a documentary about Africa that showed the extreme difficulties and suffering of its inhabitants. At the beginning of the 80s, there was little awareness of the conditions in certain parts of the world, limited to tv-news, newspapers, and a few documentaries. Of course Paich was impressed by the situations of poverty, but also by the outstanding and primordial charm of images, panoramas, nature and essentially by the essence of the African continent.
And so he came up with a love story with pretty deep meanings. Lyrics do not go too specific, but essentially the guy is about to receive the visit of the woman he loves, and when she leaves, if he wants to follow her and stay on her, he will have to leave and say goodbye to his continent. There is, however, a deeper meaning to the protagonist’s sentences, which at times reflects on how his own life transformed. And here we are no longer talking about the boy in Africa, but it is Paich himself who gives voice to his frustration at how his work is now impacting his life in every detail, to the point of conditioning his social life and his aspiration to raise a family.
The video is great and captures both sides of the song, adding further suggestions if possible. Africa is of course present through images, symbols, contexts. But the video, directed by Steve Barron who also directed the video for “Rosanna”, adds a dimension of mystery, magic, the power of nature but also of feelings, symbolized by the final fire.
“Africa” remains, after so many years, an absolutely outstanding hit. Totally modern in sounds, it turned out to be fundamental for the Toto’s career, who were all great musicians already in those years. This hit left an indelible mark on the suggestion power of the 80s.
Toto on Wikipedia