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Africa, Toto

I just heard the old 80s song “Africa”, by Toto. I really like it, and it brings back great memories of people, places, and events. But something about that song has always kind of nagged at the back of my mind. There’s one line that I’ve never been quite sure about.

So I searched around the Web and found the lyrics. Wow. I don’t know whether the writers (David Paich and Jeff Porcaro) are complete hacks or utter geniuses for putting this line in a pop song:

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the serengeti

What the hell? Look at that. There’s 20 syllables in that one line. Twenty! One word alone has five syllables. That is not at all what I thought that line said. I’m not even sure I had a solid thought on what that line said, but I’m sure it wasn’t that. What kind of band could manage to work such a line smoothly into a pop song? Toto: a band named after a concussed teenage runaway’s dog. Brilliant.

I’ve always liked Toto’s music. But now I have greater respect for them. And now I can sing along with the song the next time I hear it, and I won’t have to mumble during this line.

I just looked up information about these two mountains, and ironically, Kilimanjaro is considerably taller than Olympus. So singing that the taller mountain in Africa is tall like the shorter mountain in Greece is kind of backward. Hmm. So the simile is bad.

But still, three geographical references (one might also be a mythical reference) in one line of a pop song. Not just anyone could pull that off. Can you imagine Justin Timberlake saying that line? Linkin Park? Shop Boyz? No, you can’t. But Toto? Did it, and had the song hit #1 on the Billboard chart!

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the serengeti

And now I have that line going through my head, repeatedly.


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