In 2018, “Africa” follows us everywhere, like the sound of wild dogs crying out in the night. The whole weird history of American culture is in this song somewhere
Nothing sums up 2018 like the fact that Toto’s “Africa” has become our unofficial anthem. It’s a song that’s ridiculous by definition — an Eighties ode to Africa by a bunch of L.A. rock dudes who’d never set foot in the place. But something about this song speaks to our moment. It’s the new “Don’t Stop Believin’” — a mega-cheese classic of Eighties sentiment that’s gotten bizarrely popular in recent years, beloved by hipsters and moms and tone-deaf karaoke singers screaming “I bless the rains down in Africa!” Love it or hate it, you’ve probably heard it today. You’ll hear it tomorrow. This damn song follows you everywhere, like the sound of wild dogs crying out in the night.
Toto’s Africa is a place that doesn’t exist and never did — this song has nothing to do with the continent, unless you count that groovy synth-kalimba solo. But the song turns out to be a map of today’s America, which is why it’s much bigger now than it was in the Eighties. As Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro summed it up, “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.”
The singer is so deep in his feelings, he barely notices where he is—hence the hilarious “whoa dude, there’s a mountain” moment when “Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” Needless to freaking say, you can’t see Kilimanjaro from the Serengeti, which is a couple hundred miles away. Does it matter? The whole point of “Africa” is that you’re nowhere at all.