Monday, October 21, 2013

There's a Little African Child Trapped In Me - Africa by Toto

In 1492, Christopher Columbus was the first human ever to set foot on the Americas. He saw vast unspoiled lands that would be perfect for fencing off into farms, small towns, and strip malls. For centuries afterward, everyone thought the entire world had been explored. One day, though, a member of Toto noticed a continent on the globe that no one had noticed before. It was called Africa. No man has ever braved this dark continent. This seemed like a prime opportunity for a young explorer to make a name for himself. As Toto sings in the song, "Hurry boy! It's waiting there for you."

Before going to Africa, though, it is important to do some research. To the library!

This song has some of the worst lyrics ever. "I blessed the rains down in Africa. Gonna take some time to do the things we never have." Is there any way to interpret those lines other than as a non sequitor? Is Toto the pope, that they can bless things? Is one of the pope's main activities trying new experiences? That explains those pictures of the pope bungee jumping, but I'm going to assume that the lyrics of Africa were just whatever popped into the singer's head, unedited.

Most of the "action" in this video takes place in a library.

The singer is there with the librarian. Notice the librarian's glasses. These glasses are very important.

He is researching Africa. This is Africa on a globe.

What are those different colored globs on the African nation? States or something? Provinces? Topographical indicators?

We get to see the whole group of musicians. They are playing on top of a huge pile of books! Or are they tiny? Maybe the band has been shrunk down and the only cure for their condition is located in the mysterious country of Africa.

Note that, due to strict world music laws, Toto has three percussionists on this song.

Turns out that the singer isn't doing research at all. He has a scrap of paper that his kid stole from the library and he is trying to put it back in the correct book before the librarian notices. She is really good at noticing partially missing pages because of her glasses.

Not this book. Damn! My suggestion? Look in the children's books because they have pictures.

After the first chorus one of the three percussionists hits a gong.

This is a serious world music faux pas. Gongs are for vaguely eastern/oriental world music songs. Stick with the congas, Toto.

Enraged by the eurocentric attitudes of Toto, an actual African man shows up.

See his ominous dark skin? Hurry boy! They're waiting there for you!

The singer finds a promising book.

Title: Africa. It's an English translation of Kafka's book, Afrika. In Afrika, a young man travels from Prague to visit relatives in Africa and start a new life. When he arrives all his possessions are stolen, he is thrown into prison, and a shaman causes his flesh to wither away. Ultimately he starves to death in the desert when all his food is requisitioned by government officials. It's a comedy.

Look out! He's got a spear!

He throws it at a mask for some reason.

And misses.

The force of the spear causes a stack of books to topple into an old timey lamp.

Here are the librarian's glasses. See how important they are?

I want to stress that there is no more explanation in the video than what I'm providing here. They provide multiple close-ups of the librarian's broken glasses on the ground, but we have no idea why or what broke them. We assume it has something to do with the African man, but we don't know the significance. Perhaps we are all blind to the issues of African people. From Morocco to Mozambique, all Africans have the same problem but we have no idea what it is. If only the pope would bless their rains.

A book in that pile that toppled was the book the singer's kid ruined!

Naturally the book promptly catches fire, ruining it further.

Figuring that it doesn't matter, the singer throws his piece of paper on the fire. The librarian will never find out now, and she wouldn't be able to see anyway. Glasses.

At this point in the video the narrative is over. I am using the word narrative facetiously. The director of the video has a problem, though. The song isn't over! He has a great idea. What if, during the video, some of the people watching had to go to the bathroom? What if someone walked in from another room and missed a section from the beginning of the video? The director decides to do a quick recap of the whole video in that last few seconds. He is now working in reality TV.

Singer finds book.

Man throws spear.

Books fall.


And there you go. I wonder if Toto ever toured in Africa and how they felt when they discovered that there are many people already living there. That these people live in cities and are just as smart as they are.

Who knows? All the members of the band probably died in the fire anyways. If only there was some blessed rain to save them.

Wait! I almost forgot. There is a line in the song that is so wonderful. I always thought it was as follows: "I know that I must do what's right. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like an empress above the Serengeti." Apparently the line is "rises like Olympus" which is significantly worse. Also, he pronounces it "Kilimanjero" which is very weird. I spend a lot of time thinking about that line. It's wordy. It doesn't fit well in the rhythm and requires stressing the wrong syllables in "Serengeti". It makes no damn sense. It's perfect.



  1. I always thought it was "As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Mt. Everest above the Serengeti," which was just as weird, because why compare one famous mountain to another famous mountain? "As sure as the Nile runs like the Danube of Eygypt." "As sure as the Whopper is the Big Mac of Burger King." Just weird.

  2. Toto is like the Cole Porter of lyrics.