Songs I Love: Toto – Africa

This song is a bit –a lot- different from most of the music that gets showcased in my Songs I Love. It is not Scottish or Irish Folk and while the band are American it is definitely not Americana.

I was prompted to write about it while I was sitting in the Watermill Cafe at Merton Abbey Mills waiting for my lunch to arrive. They had music playing in the background. I’m not sure if it was the radio or the chef’s mp3 player on random shuffle, I wasn’t paying that much attention. Then I heard the very distinctive Baa-dnt-dnt-na-dnt-dnt-Daaa opening chords to “Africa” and my ears pricked up, because as I said I love that song. I was singing along with the chorus “Miss the rains down in Aaa-fri-caa” hopefully not loud enough to attract attention when the thought occurred, “I should add this to the collection.”

So why do I love this song? To be honest Toto in general I can take or leave, but this song brings back special memories. If you have read my potted biography you will know that from 1972 through to 1987 I earned my living as a marine engineer. On the 26th of February 1985 I was on the container ship Aotea and we were docked in Tokyo. Some of the other crew members (who were big Toto fans) had tickets for the Toto concert at the Budokan that evening.They had one spare and asked me if I wanted it. Toto like I said, I can take or leave, but I wanted the bragging rights of having been to a concert at the Budokan. This was the period when every one who was anyone musically seemed to have a “Live at the Budokan” album, so back home in Hawick this would be a big deal – maybe.

Off to the Budokan we went, somehow having persuaded a Japanese taxi-driver to take all five of us. I’m still not sure how we managed that, only one of us spoke any Japanese and it wasn’t me. The concert started and I was sort of enjoying it until just over half way through someone started an almost interminable keyboard/guitar solo. I was on the point of giving up and going to find a bar when;  Baa-dnt-dnt-na-dnt-dnt-Daaa, and the keyboard solo segued into “Africa” and about 10 seconds in I began to think maybe they can write a decent song after all. The track list for the concert that I found on-line says that “Africa” lasted for six minutes and sixteen seconds but for me it seemed to both last forever and be over in a flash. After that moment of brilliance I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt for the rest of the concert, but to be honest none of the other songs apart from “Roseanna” really registered with me. But “Africa” did and it is a song that I love.

Whenever I hear it takes me back to that night in the Budokan and fifteen thousand Japanese kids plus four Kiwis and a Scot belting out  “Miss the rains down in Aaa-fri-caa”


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