The Sunday Magazine: Africa by Weezer…….and Toto

There are quite a few songs which have over 1,000 plays on my ITunes list. There are fewer that are above 2,500 plays. I have noticed many of those song are ones I enjoy singing along to and playing accompanying air instruments. I am particularly partial to the imaginary drums, as my car steering wheel will attest to. Which means I have pounded out the drum fill from verse to chorus in the 1982 song “Africa” by Toto a lot because it is one of those 2,500+ songs. The song has had a rebirth for a new generation just in time for the summer of 2018 by the band Weezer. The origins of the song and the reason it has been reborn are both interesting.

I remember seeing one of the members of the band on MTV mention that the song is from the perspective of watching documentaries about Africa. The band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro wrote a song full of the kind of inaccuracies which exist from that. None better exemplifies that as the line, “as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”. Both are in Tanzania but are separated by enough distance the lyric makes no sense. It does make sense if the songwriter is looking at a World Atlas and thinks it might be true. I don’t enjoy the song for the accuracy of its lyrics it is the rhythm and the synthesizer produced kalimba along with it. It would hit #1 on the charts in 1983.

For some unexplained reason thirty-five years later a young fan of the band Weezer began a campaign to have the band cover “Africa”. Using all of the tools of social media she began her campaign in December 2017. By May 2018 it looked like she was going to receive a kind of half response as a cover of another Toto hit “Rosanna” appeared. I thought that was it. Then two weeks ago I noticed that “Africa” by Weezer was trending. When I hit the link, there it was, Weezer playing a mostly faithful cover of “Africa”. I found myself enjoying this version as much as the original. The members of Toto have tweeted their appreciation of the new version. New fans are learning about African geographical improbabilities. Even more are probably adding a new song to their air percussion playlist.

I know the new version and the original version will be played a lot throughout the summer. As I search for Kilimanjaro from my driver’s seat.

Mark Behnke

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