Did you hear about the Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf who has installed a solar-powered player and speakers set to play Africa by Toto on loop "for eternity" in the Namibian desert? I'm not sure what it says about "cultural appropriation" (is it even cultural appropriation if the culturally appropriated art is endorsed by a member of said culture?), or about art, but it has been done.
I was going to write a blog post about our latest lockdown performance video of Africa by Toto, arranged by Jerry Davis, but everything I'd like to say about the song and its enduring appeal has been covered in this Financial Times article from 2018.
I would have mentioned that despite the fact the song writers had never travelled to Africa, and you cannot actually see Kilimanjaro from the Serengeti, the song's catchy riff, anthem-like chorus and evocative use of percussion, make it one of the best-loved rock songs of all time. But the FT piece seems to do that better than I could have. I particularly liked these two quotes in the article.
"It’s crucial that it’s not a song about Africa, but about the stew of ideas and half-truths from which we create our own romanticised notions of place."
"...it is about the simple joy people take in melody".
The writer, Michael Hann, does claim the song is "cover-proof" due to its unique musical recipe, but it would seem that many have tried to give it their own flavour, over the years. Some of the more memorable include:
As for us, we love playing this arrangement. It's always slightly different depending upon the percussionists we have on duty, but when we nail that half-time groove and the low brass play that riff, we are in a happy place.
So here is our version: