The Cultural Importance and Resurgence of “Africa” by Toto

Africa graphic by Bobby Nicholas III
Africa graphic by Bobby Nicholas III

By Ivy Cloutier

Every once in a while, there’s a song that takes the internet (and the world) by storm. It started with “rickrolling”: the classic prank of sending Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ to unsuspecting recipients. Since then, the attention has shifted to many other songs, such as ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Despacito.’

There’s recently been a new craze taking over the music scene.

This time it is courtesy of the band Toto, and their song, ‘Africa.’ You may be wondering, “but didn’t that song already top the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1983?” According to Maxim, you’re correct! But the resurgence of this song in particular has folks of all ages wanting to belt their hearts out to the song made of warm nostalgia and unbelievably catchy lyrics. Even when thinking of what to write about for this post, WERS alum Ross Ketschke suggested I write about Toto and it immediately piqued my interest! (While also getting very stuck in my head).

But why ‘Africa’ specifically?

According to Motherboard, “‘Africa’ is a peak 80s tune. It’s so completely of its time,” Executive Digital Director at BMB, an ad agency in London, tells Motherboard. “Africa’ crosses generations. There's a genuine nostalgia of people of my age, and a borrowed nostalgia of younger people. It has that tie-back to your childhood and that makes you feel safe.” Plus, the song is “actually a very well-crafted piece of music, with driving drum loops, layered harmonies, and an anthemic chorus,” Motherboard points out, outlining how "Africa" has everything it takes to be one of the most melodically pleasing and iconic songs ever.

Ultimately, the seemingly full cup of love from everyone online comes down to the song not so much being a song, but a feeling.

‘Africa’ has a rhythmic and lyrical punch that perfectly sets itself up to be nostalgic, impactful, and near tear-jerking at time. It’s that oh so well-balanced mix that really sets this tune apart from others of its time, and present day!

Also, this infatuation with the thought of "there's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do" has started to spread beyond just the internet. After being asked countless times by fans, the band Weezer have actually released their own cover of the 1982 classic which created headlines such as “See 'Weird Al' Shred Accordion With Weezer on ‘Africa’ Cover” and “Weezer's Toto cover is the band's biggest hit in a decade.” It even also prompted Toto to, in a way, return the favor. They’ve began covering Weezer’s ‘Hash Pipe’ at live shows with their own funky, ‘80s style.  

All in all, even though the exact origin of this phenomenon is a little cloudy, what’s not cloudy is the clear and genuine excitement people feel when hearing the song. And ultimately that’s what matters the most, so go listen to ‘Africa’ by Toto and bless the rains down Africa until your heart is content!  

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