Gabriel wrote this song about psychologist Carl Jung's visit to Africa. He joined a group of drummers and dancers and became overwhelmed with fear. Gabriel learned about it from Jung's book Symbols And The Interpretation Of Dreams.
Jung was studying the Collective Unconscious, and was afraid he would go mad as the drummers and dancers let the music control them. Gabriel tries to capture this feeling with the tribal drumbeats.
Gabriel incorporated a lot of world music into his solo work, and this song is a great example. He explained to the NME in 1982: "The end of 'Rhythm Of The Heat' uses the Ghanaian war dance as an echo – because a big bass thud underneath it puts it in a different dimension. An area that I can identify with more strongly than something that sounds purely 'African.'"
The original titled was "Jung In Africa."
Gabriel created the basic rhythm on this track by recording a modified slide whistle and processing it through a Fairlight synthesizer. Gabriel and his engineer, David Lord, gathered a number of organic sounds for the Security album, which they augmented with the latest drum machines and synthesizers.