Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa

Africa by Toto

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I know that I must do what's right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises
Like Olympus above the Serengeti Read full Lyrics
When you think of Toto, you might have thoughts of a little black dog that took a trip to a land called Oz. However, if you are a big fan of the '80s, you might have a different idea. Originally Toto (whose name in Latin means all-encompassing) was made up of six members and started in 1977.

One of Toto's biggest hits was the song "Africa" from their Toto IV, which came out in 1984. This song could very well symbolize their entire career. It is such a huge and expansive song that, by the time the actual production of the song had been finished, they were tired of it. They were actually so tired of it that they almost left it off of the album.

A 3D view of Mount Kilimanjaro<br>Photo: NASAA 3D view of Mount Kilimanjaro
Photo: NASA
It is a great thing that they didn't or else there would be a generation who would have missed out on one of the more dramatically romantic songs of the era ("There's nothing that 100 men or more could ever do..."), and would have missed a great geography lesson as well. Before you heard this song, did you really know where Mount Kilimanjaro was or how to pronounce it?

Conjuring up images of the drums rolling across the Serengeti, the song was the brainchild of Toto's drummer, Jeff Porcaro. As an 11 year old boy he and his family visited the African pavilion at the New York World's Fair, and seeing the drummers demonstrating had a lasting effect on Jeff.

Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance<br>Photo: Dan Lundberg, <a href="" target="_blank">via Flickr</a>, CC2.0Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance
Photo: Dan Lundberg, via Flickr, CC2.0
Creating this song was kind of like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The recorded percussion parts were handled by just Jeff Porcaro and Lenny Castro. The two would set up two instruments at a time, for example, the bass and snare drum with a hi-hat cymbal (a basic drum kit) and a conga, and record those parts. Then the two would move on to the next set of instruments, such as the cowbell and shaker.

Toto made their living creating flawless pop hits that were right at home on both the Top 40 and the Adult Contemporary stations. The band members were assembled from a group of top studio musicians who were constantly called on to create this sound. So, if you're going to sing about Africa and have it go mainstream, you're not going to get into nasty stuff like wars and famine and poverty. This is more of the Disney version of Africa - what you might see on that safari ride in the Animal Kingdom. You've got your Mount Kilimanjaro, which is actually a dormant volcano, as well as the beautiful Serengeti, the subject of many National Geographic specials. You might think it's a little out there, and the guy who wrote it agrees: Toto guitarist Steve Lukather said, "It didn't fit, the lyrics made no sense. And I swore that if it was a hit record, I'd run naked down Hollywood Boulevard!"

Pete Trbovich
May 18, 2010
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Comments: 2

  • Mike Cumber from UsaKilimanjaro isn't even near the Serengeti. Dumb song is dumb.
  • Climbing Kilimanjaro from UkI love this song. I am heading off to Africa next on a trek and will then be climbing Kilimanjaro. This song is already on my mp3 player (along with Rosanna from the same group) and I just can't imagine standing on top of Kilimanjaro and listening to it while I look down on the world below me.
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