This song tells the story of a man who comes to Africa and must make a decision about the girl who comes to see him. He is enamored with the country, but must leave if he is going to be with her.
Toto keyboard player David Paich wrote the song, and explained in the liner notes of Toto's Best Ballads compilation: "At the beginning of the '80s I watched a late night documentary on TV about all the terrible death and suffering of the people in Africa. It both moved and appalled me and the pictures just wouldn't leave my head. I tried to imagine how I'd feel about if I was there and what I'd do." Paich had never been to Africa when he wrote the song.
In an article in Time magazine, one of the group members said they were looking for a song just to close off the album and did not think "Africa" would do as well as it did. They also mentioned that if you listen close enough during the lyrics "catch some waves," some group members were singing "catch some rays."
Toto IV won a Grammy for Album Of The Year.
This is probably Toto's most famous song, and their guitarist Steve Lukather would like you to know that there is much more to the band: Toto were top studio musicians before forming the group, and known as some of the best in the business. Lukather told Rock's Backpages: "A lot of people categorize us as 'that 'Africa' or 'Rosanna' band,' and I hate that s--t. We have a lot more substance than that. Don't get me wrong - those songs have been great to us, but you really don't understand the depth of the band if that's all you know.
We could be the most misunderstood band in rock history. We consist of some of the most recorded musicians in the business. And yet we take hits for that. [laughs] Ashlee Simpson and all these phony-baloney singers sell millions of records, but everybody knows that's bogus. Some folks go on the road, and they might as well be miming. My son toured with Lindsay Lohan 4 years ago. The whole band was playing live, she was lipsynching. She couldn't sing a lick. Some poor guy had to Pro Tools that every night."
This is used in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Olivia Lufkin and Howie Day have both recorded this. The song has also been sampled by JoJo and Nas.
South African Castle Lager used this in commercials. (thanks, Hermes - Athens, Greece, for above 4)
Guitarist Steve Lukather and singer Bobby Kimball told Rock Eyez that this song nearly didn't make the album and it "was a guy named Al Keller, who was over at CBS" who convinced them to put it on the disc. Lukather added: "I thought it was the worst song on the album. 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! That's how good I am at picking singles! (Laughs) I mean I love the song now but, to be honest with you, at the time I thought it was really the odd ball song on the album. It almost didn't make the record and it was a #1 worldwide single and still gets played everywhere today. No matter where I go in the world, people know that song… it's bizarre! For a song that Dave (Hungate) and I wrote in his living room, people know it in Indonesia!"
This appeared in an episode of the TV show Scrubs in 2004. The episode was a tribute to the movie The Wizard Of Oz, so Toto fit the theme.