Monday, September 5, 2011

The real meaning behind Toto's 'Africa'

    Pop songs are meant to be popular. In every era of music, you could say that there was a formula to making a song that would be a 'hit'. The record companies knew this, and that's why you hear so many similar sounding songs from any given year. If a new style or new 'sound' is becoming popular, replacing the one from last year, there is a mad rush to capitalize on the fad for as long as it lasts, until the next fad comes along. I say this because it seems like this is where non-sensical lyrics come into play most often. They focus on creating the song as quickly as possible, and what's most important for radio play is how the song sounds as a product, not necessarily the words and meaning behind them. In some eras, these fads were started by artists who through their originality changed the taste of the music consuming population. In other eras the fad was a well thought-out plan, a business model for creating 'artists' rather than waiting for someone to come along. One the most notable examples of this latter era would be the late 90's to early 2000's. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, LFO, etc. This era of music was ushered in by a producer, Lou Pearlman, rather than the artist. In an ironic twist, Lou Pearlman got into the music business thanks in part to his first cousin, Art Garfunkel. Garfunkel (along with Paul Simon) belonged to an era of singer/songwriters that grew organically thanks to the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, etc.
    I say this about pop music not because I believe that Toto's words are meaningless, nor are they of the class of singer/songwriters from the 60's. I'm trying to illustrate that within certain times a lot of popular songs sound similar, and the effect of that is that songs will begin to run together. Songs don't necessarily become hits because of their lyrics, but rather because of their 'feel'. Most of the time, we will decide if we like a song by it's feel in the first 30 seconds. If it passes the feel test, we may listen to the lyrics, or we may not. I've recently been exposed to a lot of songs I thought I knew, but I didn't actually know. I remembered the feeling and groove, but not the lyrics. When I really think about it, I don't think I ever knew the lyrics. I just absorbed the catchy hook.
    'Africa' was released on Toto's 4th album, eponymouly named "Toto IV". It reached number 1 on the Billboard charts in February of 1983, while I was still in utero. I vaguely remember hearing it when I was a child. At the neighborhood pool, the only radio station that offended no one (but also didn't please anyone either) was the adult contemporary station. This was one of the songs that they played. So now, when I hear 'Africa', then get past the awesomeness of it's groove and the unforgettably catchy hook, I listen to the words in the verse for the first time. Do you know the words? Or do you, like me, only remember 'Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you', and 'I bless the rains in Africa'?
    According to David Paich (keyboards and vocals) the song is about "a white boy 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". I have a different take. I believe it's a very subtle song about making love with someone for the first time. Doing it. Getting it on. Bumping uglies. 

Just for reference, here's the song:


The video could be another post entirely on its own.

But we're looking for the meaning behind the words here, so here we go.

First verse:

I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She's coming in 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me toward salvation
I stopped an old man along the way,
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say
Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you

    This has nothing to do with Africa (the continent). Look at the lyrics again ... see?
   
    This sounds exactly like the lead-up to a romantic rendevous. To make things easier, for the purposes of this post, the male character in the story of the song, also the narrator, will be known as 'he' or 'him'. The object of his desire, the female, will be known as 'she' or 'her'.
    The 'drums echoing' are the primal, insistent, instinctual beat of his libido; the male equivalent of a biological clock that started ticking long long ago, in the jungles and on the plains of Africa before we were the species that we are today. We can tell that this will be the first (hopefully, in his eyes) sexual encounter between the two. His plan is to seduce her, tonight. He has invited her over, but has not yet told her of his intentions. He has talked to her without exposing his beating drums of desire, which is why all she hears is the echo of some quiet conversation, the conversation they had before she agreed to come over. On her 12:30 flight.
    Before I continue, I have to raise the point that if a wing, or anything else, is moonlit, there is no way for it to reflect stars. The moon is the brightest object in the night sky and by it's very nature obscures or renders obsolete the light from stars, especially when one is talking of reflection. We must agree here that this simply means that it is night. Let us continue.
    Before she gets there, he has to run an errand. He walks down the street towards the corner store, guided by the arched streetlights hanging over the gutters like wings (!) to pick up a six-pack of Bartles & Jaymes, his salvation. Inebriation will  absolve some of the sins which he hopes to commit tonight, if all goes to plan. On the way back from the store, he is excited. He is ready to converse with anyone who might come across his path, including an old man waiting for the bus. The old man appreciates his exuberance, it makes him feel a little nostalgic for his younger days when he was excitedly anticipating the arrival of some young female. He (the narrator) asks this old man if he has any words of wisdom, any tidbits that will help him in his upcoming conquest. The old man laughs mirthfully as he shakes his head. The best advice that he can give is to hurry back. Though the young man is assuming he alone is hearing the echoes of the ancient drum beat, the old man knows that she's been waiting for him to make his move, and probably has been for longer than he knows.

    So now we come to the chorus. If you did not know the title of the song, the only thing that remotely resembles a reference to Africa so far is the sound of the marimbas at the beginning. The chorus will give us Africa in name, but the first two lines resemble the sentiments of a traditional love song.

Chorus:

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa 
It's gonna take some time to do the things we never had

    This is the most important part to deducing the intent of the lyrics. There is only one other reference to the continent of Africa other than naming it here. Until the third line of this chorus, there has been nothing to reference a place, and we can tell even from the first line of the song that he is using a metaphorical device. We don't assume that he's hearing the echoes of actual drums, he's referencing an idea. So, what is the metaphor he is trying to express when he proclaims that he blesses 'the rains down in Africa'? What is Africa?

    The Vagina.

     Yes, you heard me right. The Vagina. The immortal originator of all that we are. Where life began for everyone. The hot, sticky jungle that gave life to you and I that goes back all the way to the hot, sticky jungles of Africa, where we became a species. Africa is the motherland, the bounty, the life-giver. "The Dark Heart of Africa" when said aloud stirs semi-erotic images in the brain and erotic ones in the loins. She is the receiver and the reason for the beating of drums. Can it mean anything else? Are we to assume that we're suddenly talking about a piece of land when it's obstensibly been about a man and his feelings for a woman up to this point? I think not. I also think that 'gonna take some time to do the things we never had' is pretty clear, when you look at it this way.

Second verse:

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what's right
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

    Here in the second verse we have the other reference to Africa, Kilimanjaro and Serengeti. We'll get to those in just a minute.

    It's here that he is becoming more consumed with desire. Earlier it was likened to the echo of drums, but now he is expressing it in a more primitive way, comparing it to dogs crying out. He's longing for the company of one other, the need for that one taking him further down the evolutionary ladder, to a time before he was man. He knows that he needs this to happen tonight. It is in the other reference to Africa that we must make our second biggest metaphorical leap. He has described a mountain rising out of a barren desert, and compared it to Olympus, the home of the gods, the kingdom of Zeus. If Africa, the Mother-God is the vagina, here we are shown the phallic mountain of Zeus the philandering Father-God. An enormous erection of stone towering over the dark wetness of Darkest Africa. His romantic quest is almost fulfilled, and yet he is now doubting himself right before the moment of truth. Is this what he actually wants, the stark physical act? Is he not the man that he thought he was, striving for the great love of body and soul; is he another wretch weakening resistance with alcohol? Yet again, I think not.

Chorus repeat:

It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa 
It's gonna take some time to do the things we never had

    It is here that we find the meaning to the first two lines of the chorus. He is not the wretch who will take the body without the soul. Although his entire night has been leading up the penultimate moment, the climax, the coup de grace, the old-fashioned romantic notions bring us (and he) back to why he has been planning this night. There is no one that could take her away from him. He will push back against the multitudes that may come to her. He doesn't just want to feel the sweet rush of rain from Africa, he blesses it. He blesses the giving of that place, her place, and he wants her to know what it means to him.

    Hence this song.


82 comments:

  1. The way you explain it sounds like an erotic novel. You should make one.

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  2. Try writing lyrics of your own instead of making up some rubishy meaning to someone else's.

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  3. What I saw here was not the meaning of the song but your personality.

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  4. I think this makes a lot more sense than the band's given explanation.

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  5. I don't know if this really is what the band intended, but it makes a lot of sense. Far more than the official explanation. I tried listening to the song with the mindset that it's about a white person from a Western country writing about Africa, which he knows little about. However, the lyrics just don't make sense if that's the case. There's obviously more going on here, and it definitely includes a love story.

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  6. This is classic. What a load of balls. I love it.
    Vagina indeed.

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  7. Today, in early 2014, as i watched the video for this song that I've loved since 1984 when I was a teen, and listened again to the words, I have to say, I had the very same thought! It just hit me..."This is about making love to a woman! Wow! I just went a step further and wondered if the object of this desire is also a black woman. That's why I suddenly searched the meaning and came upon this one. Just my thoughts...One never knows.........

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    1. I also think the reference to Africa is the woman herself..

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    2. My Thoughts exactly.. I know his deepest feelings and lived there for a short time ..

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  8. You're an idiot. Go back to watching porn and leave classic songs alone.

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    1. Lol why are you so offended that you feel the need to call this brilliant thinker and analyzer an idiot? I bet the author has more thoughts in a day than you've ever had your entire life.

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  9. i totally agree! in fact, i googled this song to confirm my interpretation and came upon this site! kool!

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  10. I'm from Mexico, born on 1986 and when I first heard this song (and could understand the lyrics) I instantly thought about this as a love song (it is quite obvious from the beginning actually) but also always thought of this as a sexual song, poetic one but it definitely sounded like making love to someone. Found the topic and couldn't believe that english speakers don't see it that way.
    I'm guessing that Paich said that to avoid criticism at the time, or maybe he wanted to make a song about Africa, wrote the music and the lyrics just turned sexual on their own somehow -during the process- without him even realising it.
    A white boy talking about Africa when he doesn't know Africa at all... c'mon! no one makes a song about that!.
    What's funny is that people take you as a pervert for pointing this out... enforces my guess that he had to come up with a silly explanation, back in the day, to avoid questioning.

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    1. I am 100% with you on this one. I grew up in Mexico and love the song. Back then it was just a feeling for it, ignoring the lyrics because I did not know any English at all. Ever since it has always a love song for me.

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    2. I am 100% with you on this one. I grew up in Mexico and love the song. Back then it was just a feeling for it, ignoring the lyrics because I did not know any English at all. Ever since it has always a love song for me.

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    3. Makes more sense than the music video and lyrics to me. Vet interesting. Thanks for explaining, even if it's only opinion

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  11. I agree with all those who say rubbish to this interpretation.

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    1. You're all just in denial ;)

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  12. I always thought of Africa as a love song, and I'm glad you did the math and figured it out in great detail. Your explanations make a lot of sense to me. Tx.

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  13. Although we're not far here from the forced literary interpretations we were compelled to sit through (or even write ourselves) in high school (you must have gotten high marks for yours!), I admit that this was an entertaining read, and a perfectly reasonable over-analysis.

    It was always clear that it was a 'love song' of some stripe, which was why, as a kid, I never understood what Africa had to do with any of it (I was a shy girl of ten when this song came out).

    But, as my experience has shown that many love songs tend to meander with poetic imagery without actually saying a great deal, it was easy enough to accept - often the lyrics to a song aren't meant to have much more substance than simply declaring an undying love, and being one more layer of "the feel" of the song (which purpose, in this song, they serve admirably).

    From the skeptic's standpoint, it's easy to analyze and devise the metaphorical imagery of any lyric, and read far more into it than the author may have truly had in mind when writing; but when it comes to a brazen and unabashed attempt to find significance in the lyrics of this particular song, I think you've come up with the most thoughtful and penetrating interpretation of any I've chanced to read (which, I admit, have been very few).

    Your detractors here, who decry your interpretation as rubbish, simply miss the point.
    To those who aren't curious to actually make sense of lyrics, your suggestion is read as an affront to their preference to just accept the words as meaningless as they are. You come across as a pretentious know-it-all who's reaching way too far to ascribe a psychology to a fluffy easy-listening soft rock song.
    I think these people can't find their cheeks with their tongues, and take their fluffy easy-listening soft rock songs much too seriously.

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    1. Totally makes sense from a literary and poetic sense! Just one addition: I think he gets her pregnant and "knows that he must do what's right" which makes him "frightened of the thing that he's become"!

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  14. The Serengeti is far from a desert. It is a great plain that is full of life. You were perhaps thinking of the Sahara desert, not mentioned in this song. Otherwise I think that your interpretation is at least partially accurate.

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  15. Epic explanation!! And this so much more in line with the video...

    And what about the video.. What about the sexy black girl with the glasses that got broke.. The library.. The warrior.. The spear... The missing page... The fire..

    These things are similar to your view.. And mine.


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  16. that's fucking brilliant

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  17. I was skeptical initially, but you got me with the towering Kilimanjaro. Well done, makes me appreciate the song even more. The people calling bullshit on this are almost certainly idiots.

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  18. This is wonderful stuff. Although I think you mean ultimate rather than penultimate.

    If you get to over-analyze, so do I. :-)

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  19. Great interpretation not likely understood or appreciated by the average Joe or the unlearned. Brings back good memories of poetic analysis in literature classes.

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    1. Agreed! Especially with the part about it bringing back memories of lit class

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  20. Lame Freudian interpretation, all you've done is inserted a parallel story line to the music's lyrics. This is a pop-rock love song, so it goes without saying that there is emotional and sexual content to it.

    Song lyrics must be interpreted along with the music. The main riff of the song is a searching bass line that ends on a suspended questioning note that's responded to with twinkling high notes which are like twinkling stars that lead the bass line on it's search. This is the heart searching for love, trying to find it's way to Africa by watching for it's signs- "I hear the drums", "stars guide me" etc.
    Africa is a metaphor for love, and all that means. "I bless the rains down in Africa" means that even the pain of love is valuable, in other words "it's better to have loved and lost...". "Rain" is a typical pop love song image for sadness or pain, but it's positive meaning is that it also gives things life. The part about Kilimanjaro is a comparison between the intellect and the emotions. The intellect or reason is ruled by the Greek gods on Olympus and reason can be proved true by their rules, logic is physically true like mount Olympus. The emotions are ruled by the gods of Kilimanjaro and are proved true by their rules. Kilimanjaro is as real and awe inspiring as Olympus. And so he must act heroically "do what's right" and profess his love even though he's afraid, the old man("father", someone who has been to Africa before and knows it's "music") in the first verse first tells him this(the only way to know Africa/love is to go there. Why ask someone when you can go?).
    In the chorus basically he says "I love you more than anyone, love isn't quantifiable it's either true or false, pain is part of what love is and now we're going to accept that and pay it's price to gain something we were too scared to have before."
    The story doesn't need to be taken literally, it can stand for any situation were the experience is worth the pain of going through it, this is why many parallel story's can be inserted to go along with the song's lyrics. People like you are the reason that music and art in general have fallen to suck a weak state.

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    1. pft what a moronic explanation, the one of the blogger makes much more sense

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    2. I resonate with this interpretation. Thank you

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    3. The blogger goes down a Freudian path but why not. Sexuality is a part of love. You can also interpret as pure love but does it exclude sexual relationship? The author talks about desire, urgent need to meet someone, that he will get to her no matter what (why does this make me think of the sperm cells fighting to get to the ovum? Funny right? it should make me think of a pure and unscathed love bright as the stars...). This song is about the inevitability of life and how it will happen and perpetuate itself no matter what.

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    4. The blogger goes down a Freudian path but why not. Sexuality is a part of love. You can also interpret as pure love but does it exclude sexual relationship? The author talks about desire, urgent need to meet someone, that he will get to her no matter what (why does this make me think of the sperm cells fighting to get to the ovum? Funny right? it should make me think of a pure and unscathed love bright as the stars...). This song is about the inevitability of life and how it will happen and perpetuate itself no matter what.

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  21. I'm now enlightened!!! The vagina thing made it all so clear :)

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  22. The chick working in the library is certainly dark and sweet ! Yum!

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  23. That was the most ridiculous thing I've ever read about a song. It's mostly about a culture the writer dreams of knowing but has never known. It involves an aspect of love, but good God you've completely slaughtered it. You have too much time on your hands to take a simple, inspiring song and turn it into an entire column about the supposed origination of the human race and the fact that we're all just a bunch of fancy dressed-up animals. And I'll say it. You and your brain are quite simply overflowing with rubbish. I'm almost tempted to think this whole thing was a joke.

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    1. romantic fool you think all this songs have a super espiritual meaning ?? almost all songs are about sex ,this music is made for marketing and sex is a best seller everywhere

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  24. That was the most ridiculous thing I've ever read about a song. It's mostly about a culture the writer dreams of knowing but has never known. It involves an aspect of love, but good God you've completely slaughtered it. You have too much time on your hands to take a simple, inspiring song and turn it into an entire column about the supposed origination of the human race and the fact that we're all just a bunch of fancy dressed-up animals. And I'll say it. You and your brain are quite simply overflowing with rubbish. I'm almost tempted to think this whole thing was a joke.

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  25. This is the real meaning of the song. You're 100% accurate and forget the haters who don't have an intellectual bone in their bodies.

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  26. Africa is so well written and sung, it's a never die classic that seems to be about a white guy who is so in love with a black girl, in a time where that wasn't the most accepted. He would do aything to be with her. Classic love song................what

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  27. I've always considered it a love song. I think the band members didn't go into depth with the meaning as some artists leave it up to fans to make their own interpretations. I also liked some of the other concepts people threw out there as to how much in depth the love song goes. Your's was awesome. Screw those who call you a pervert!

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  28. I've always considered it a love song. I think the band members didn't go into depth with the meaning as some artists leave it up to fans to make their own interpretations. I also liked some of the other concepts people threw out there as to how much in depth the love song goes. Your's was awesome. Screw those who call you a pervert!

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  29. I've always considered it a love song. I think the band members didn't go into depth with the meaning as some artists leave it up to fans to make their own interpretations. I also liked some of the other concepts people threw out there as to how much in depth the love song goes. Your's was awesome. Screw those who call you a pervert!

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  30. Song is poetry and can be interpreted uniquely by each person.

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  31. It is true Freud described women's sexuality as the 'dark continent'...

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  32. You are entitled to your opinion and interpretation of this song.
    Just as I am entitled to reply that it is rubbish. Utter rubbish.

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  33. A decent interpretation gone a little too far.
    Surely helped me understand the meaning of the lyrics though.

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  34. Let me try to set the record straight, pun intended. I was a Columbia Promo Rep in Hartford when the album was released. Rosanna was the lead single, and Africa was buried on the album, last song second side.
    It brought to mind that when they toured to support Toto 1, with "Hold the Line", "Georgie Porgy", etc. I drove them from Springfield Ma to Hartford to do radio interviews. On the later drive back for soundcheck, David Paich and Jeff Porcaro were speaking in the backseat of my car and David said that he wanted to see the Serengeti and go on a safari. and they discussed it a bit. David Hungate was sitting in the front seat and heard this also. I remembered this conversation when I saw this song Africa on the album, it made my curious, so I listened. Great groove, cool, mysterious lyric, great opening chords. I was not sure if the label even noticed this song because no one seemed familiar with it when I started my campaign to have it released as a single... last song on the second side. I felt some allegiance to the song, and also since I had take drum lessons from Joe Porcaro, when they lived in Hartford. I felt that my job was to make sure this song did not get overlooked. Over a six or 8 month time frame,talking to everyone I could in the singles and promotion departments, Columbia did release Africa and a very together group of record and music people at Columbia Records and CBS Records sold 7-8 million copies by the time the Grammys gave Toto 7 awards. Truth is, I cannot help but feel a little proud when I check out Africa live performances from Amsterdam and Paris on You Tube. A good groove, great melody, a killer arrangement and a song that connected with people around the world and still brings them together. Thank you Toto, then and now.

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    1. It begs to ask then, why would they "hide" such a powerful song deep in the album and not push for it to be promoted? Unless there was an underlying personal meaning to it.

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  35. The entire album seems to revolve around the relationship between Rosanna Arquette and Steve Pocaro. Initial love, heartbreak, anger, rationalization.

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  36. I think your interpretation is awesome, way to go. Very well thought.

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  37. I think the only problem with your interpretation is the title. It should be "my meaning" not "the real meaning"...

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  38. Um, I prefer to get it from the horse's mouth:

    http://www.rockcellarmagazine.com/2013/02/04/africa-by-toto-lives-on-after-30-years/

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  39. the uglies really jerk. smfh...well if he wants to test the rains down in Africa tell him to call me ;) ♡

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  40. It's a love song about a white guy falling in love with a black girl and her father (the hunter with the spear) disapproving of the relationship. I've always love this song. The rhythm and all brings me to tears. And now as a 40 year old adult, I decided to stop and search if I'm the only one who thinks this song is more than its "official" explanation.

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  41. hye.. please give your opinion about the White Sister (paich/kimball) lyrics...
    i think there is something hiding about the meaning inside the song..
    thanks a lot brother..

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  42. Every song ever written has different meanings to different people and at different times in their lives.

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  43. in fact you are right, though there is also a second meaning, that WAS the intended message - and a further third!

    it was also about erasing classic stereotypes, assumptions that what we see on Nat. Geo. (i.e. everyone from Africa is a spearchucking neanderthal) is the whole truth - and both of these themes are in fact summed up in the music video with the appearance of Jenny Douglas-McRae

    #BurnYourBooks
    #ThrowThemOut
    #ThinkForYourself
    #GoodMorning

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woAcXSMyCEw

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  44. I think you spent more time analyzing the lyrics than Toto did writing them.

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  45. Wow!
    I think it's interesting that even in 2016 people are still searching the meaning of Toto's 'Africa' lyrics. Myself included. :-)

    After reading the original blog posted here and then scrolling further, I ran across this comment from November 2015 by blogger Jen Chough.
    In it she includes a VERY interesting in depth interview article with Toto member David Paich in which he explains the motivation behind the song as well as other facts on it's mystique and various universal cover versions.
    For anyone who may not have read this, here is the link again (Thank you Jen):

    http://www.rockcellarmagazine.com/2013/02/04/africa-by-toto-lives-on-after-30-years/

    One thing that I noticed in the David Paich interview is that he prefers to let the listener interpret the song how they want to in order to not put limitations on it.

    Judging from the many comments in this blog, that is exactly what the lyrics of 'Africa' has accomplished.

    Peace

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  46. I think this interpretation of the song is beautiful. Thank you.

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  47. Woke in bed this a.m. to this song on alarm, didn't hit snooze, just lowered the volume a little till it ended. Felt the need to research it more. It came out when I was 8. Nice interpretation!

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  48. Several women have boasted to me about the number of hours which they put into assembling the outfit which they wore for the initial seduction.

    I always say, tut tut, it was, after all, I who seduced you!

    At this point, she puts a fingertip to my lips and says, silly rabbit, it is always the woman who decides, when, and where, and if, sex takes place.

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  49. well that just ruined one of my favourite songs lol

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  50. If this song is anything about Africa, like David Paich claims it was, it's horribly written and makes little sense. If it is some kind of metaphor for a love interest or anticipation of sex with her (as this blog proclaims), then there is some interesting imagery. It could go either way, which is really the mark of good song. The listener makes up their own reality, and it can mean different things to different people.

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  51. I would say that the blog author went a little overboard on this analysis. It's much simpler than he thinks. Paich supposedly said the song was written after he saw something about Africa on TV and made a connection between their tough life/suffering and his own. The difference being that Africans have little choice and must accept their situation, but Paich was becoming consumed by his work and missing out some of the better things in life (love, marriage,family). The Africa references are in the song just to provide context, and ultimately fit phonetically a little better in the song than probably Indonesia, Mongolia, Iraq, etc. The first verse is simply about having this discussion with his girlfriend, and the "drums beating" is his excitement in discussing the matter but she only hears "quiet conversation". She's coming in on a late flight, and he feels that convincing her to marry him is his only "salvation". He tells this to "an old man along the way" and looking for some insights, but the man just says "hurry she is waiting there for you". The second verse, "wild dogs crying out in the night" is the first Africa reference simply to compare his longing for her to arrive. "Doing what's right" just means he needs to do this and stop overworking, and it's as clear as Kilamanjaro (second Africa reference, and unmistakable to those around it) and Mount Olympus (mythical mountain, but clear to the Greeks) rising above the flatlands of the Serengeti plain. "Curing what's deep inside" is the attempt to escape from being a workaholic and/or consumed by fame/fortune, which "frightens him because that is what he has become". The chorus is simply stating that it would take a lot to drag him away from her; and not even 100+ men could do it. He's "gonna take some time to do the things he's never had (love, marriage, family)". Blessing the rains down in Africa (3rd reference) is nothing more than noting that the simple instance of rain falling in Africa sustains life, and in most 1st world countries we overlook the simple things and make life more complicated than it needs to be.

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  52. If you watched the video, notice the black woman at the desk wearing glasses. She wouldn't be in the video about Africa for any other reason for that he is describing wanting to know what a romance would be like with an African woman. I got this meaning when I heard the lyrics later in life and sure enough, the video confirms it. He is describing his lust for wanting an African woman. Either that or colonization. Same thing.

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  53. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLrC7e3vSv8

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  54. This tells me what is on the mind of the reviewer and nothing about the meaning of the song . A great lyric should mean different things to different people that's the whole point ☝️

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  55. An English prof, long ago when I was a freshman in college, told me that it is entirely possible that poets do not know the meaning of their poetry and that the real meaning may be much more subtle than the surface words. Could be you are right!

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    1. And sometimes the reader/listener is just simple-minded and cannot grasp the meanings. I note how Mark Knopfler's "Haul Away" is almost universally misinterpreted.

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  56. To the people who call the author an idiot. I disagree but I understand your starch dismissal. I feel it too. I feel it too because I love this song for the raw imagery it provokes in my minds eye. I am not, for all intends and purposes, a man of music and there are very few songs that I feel I truly lose myself in but "Africa" is one of them. This explanation, if it were true, cheapens that beautiful imagery, at least to me, and thus my emotional investment in the song. This is frightening because the explanation, regardless of what ever else it may be, is compelling and approaches the song logically with textual evidence to support the theory. That is what scares you, and scares me and when we as a species get scared by language our 'knee-jerk' reaction is discredit either the words or the author or both and for the less subtle that means shouting "idiot!" I had the reaction as well, but discipline your instincts as we all should, because when you stifle language and voice you stifle creativity and passion. If this authors views upset you remember that there is 100 ways to prepare a feast and that this analysis is no more right or wrong than any other theory on this song, choose the one that suits you. But don't assault the ones that don't, it does no good.

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    1. No- I love your deconstruction of this text. You have laid it bare for what it is. The whirring of wings, the pumping of blood, breath, life...

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  57. Um,.. well - interesting take on all this..
    Try going through it again with the thought that there are two women in the story. The male (narrating) character is/has been struggling for quite some time to get over his lost love. Something that not even a hundred men could ever do. He's finally convinced that he must do what's right! He must let her go and move on with his life. This time he will finally 'take the time to do the things WE never had'.

    He will need the strength of Kilimanjaro to overcome the thing he has become. He wishes there was some easy sage advice. But the only answer is to run to his new interest and start to build a new relationship.

    Luckily, the rains will wash clean his old connections to distant memories. They will cleanse his past and he will meet his new love interest and start (with quiet conversations) to get to know her more intimately. The thought of her up in that plane (arriving at 12:30), so close to those damned stars that make him dream of salvation.

    This is a classic case of:
    Boy loses girl
    Boy pines and struggles for the loss
    Boy climbs out of the depths
    Boy learns to love again.

    Go through the lyrics again and keep in mind that in any verse, he is either talking about the loss of one woman or the hope of his new love interest. It's easy to get the two women confused.

    It's a fantastic love story. Oh, the librarian in the video. She's reading the story and feeling all the turmoil, pain, struggle, cleansing. She wishes she were part of that story as well..

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  58. Haha..epic..I just laughed thru this at how ill never listen to this song the innocent same way again..lol..but jokes aside its passion. Nice interpretation. :) bless the Rains down in Africa.! Epic..!

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  59. Reading through the comments, I'm amazed at how so many people are apparently butthurt by the author's incredibly insightful, personal interpretation. I think they protest a little TOO much! I believe it's safe to say that most of us have always known on some level what this song was about, but couldn't quite put it into words. It's a brilliant song by a great band, and kudos to Toto for keeping the true meaning hidden from those unable to fully appreciate it.

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  60. My friend who died recently, a stand up comedian, was a big Toto fan and I was thinking of him as I googled the meaning of "Africa." Your explanation sounds EXACTLY how our conversation about it would have gone. Thank you for giving me a fun last conversation with him.

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  61. The fact that this bloggers interpretation has engendered such passion and debate, both pro and con, speaks clearly about just one thing: ART!
    The music, the lyric, the performances, the production value of the recording - all are, IMHO, great art!
    The thing about art and it's interpretation is this: We don't experience art as it is: we experience it as WE are. With great art, what the consumer brings to the 'party' is just as important as (if not MORE than) what the creator intended... There is no "correct" interpretation. Art is an abstract communication at both visceral and aesthetic levels, between artist and the individual who experiences the art!
    Well done ALL!!

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  62. Supported by reading the rockcellar interview, the interpretation I see is this:
    - guy is waiting for his girlfriend, who he left in his home country, to arrive in Africa (the plane, he hears the drums, sees an old man, hears wild dogs, etc.; yes, there are wild dogs in Africa folks)
    - he is thinking as he goes to meet her - he left her to become a missionary/volunteer, so he avers that "a hundred men" can't drag him away, because when you DO volunteer work like that, it is pitting the well-being and possibly lives of many many people vs. staying "at home" with your loved ones. Those of us who volunteer or have full-time know that the volunteering means separation from those you love, and it is a difficult choice - especially when significant geographic distances are involved.
    - taking the time to do the things they never had means he realized that when volunteering, he became a different person and the doing didn't match his idea of what it would be before he left, so now his love is now coming to see him, and it *will* be different, he *will* commit to her

    The "bless the rains" part should resonate not only with people with knowledge of Africa, but also knowledge of Native Americans. The fact that "bless the rains" is present tense, but "it's gonna take a lot" is future - the guy is recommitting to his girlfriend, and he may end up leaving Africa.

    As for the video, there are more than a few videos that are different than the song meanings, or only give a vague idea of the meanings. Certainly the rockcellar interview with notes about seeing guys who came back from missionary work makes sense - writing a song or a poem or a story or a novel puts you in the place of others - what songs only about the songwriter are popular?

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