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Were Toto right about Africa?

Sep 1 • 1857 views • 12 Comments Africa, Diary of a Muzungu, Society and culture, Travel, Uganda

The Muzungu’s got her mojo back.

It’s been ages since I published a blog, hasn’t it Dearest Reader? Travel, IT problems, work commitments, the death of my beloved Baldrick – and plain old exhaustion – have taken their toll… but de Muzungu is back on form. I hope you can keep up?

Sunshine – and the promise of an evening filled with talk about Uganda and birds (and possibly even a sneaky little Uganda Waragi) – followed a captivating day at the UK Bird Fair. Driving along in evening sunshine, I follow Roger (driving the wrong way!) in his little red car.

I switch on the radio.

“Who would you like the request for?” Asks the DJ.

“Please play it for me and my husband who are going on Safari in Kenya this weekend.”

Negative African stereotype no. 1:

- The Caller pronounced it “Keeeenya,” the old colonial way.

“Sounds like the ‘holiday of a lifetime’!” Says the DJ.

“We’re taking a drive across the Rift Valley, then to the beach in Mombasa, hoping the pirates from Somalia don’t get us.” (The DJ agrees that being kidnapped by pirates would not make for a good holiday of a lifetime. Memory of a lifetime flashing before you, maybe!)

Negative African stereotype no. 2:

- Visiting the East African coast necessarily involves Somali pirates.

Negative African stereotype no. 3:

- We’re lucky that we know the Caller is going to Kenya, not just any old African country. She has no idea where in Keeeenya she’s actually going for her Safari.

“Where did you spend your honeymoon?” Asks the DJ.

“Cornwall,” she replies. (South West England). “Nothing to hunt there!” She jokes.

Negative African stereotype no. 4:

- Going on Safari equates to hunting animals.

The DJ corrects her: “I don’t think you’ll be hunting animals on Safari. We don’t do that anymore.” (Actually, there is limited, regulated hunting on some Safaris in Africa but the vast majority of holidaymakers just come to shoot with cameras).

“And what song would you like me to play for you Caller?”

“Africa” by Toto.

Negative African stereotype no. 5:

“Africa” by Toto.

I confess: I can’t help it, I love singing along to the song – perhaps because I’ve heard it a gazillion times.

It seems a bit naff to be listening to it in Uganda – though god knows we hear it at least once every night we’re at a local bar.

Toto’s ‘Africa’ was released in 1983, here’s the video, with words beneath… scroll down a bit further though, I need your attention a little longer…!

Toto's song Africa

The Muzungu’s having mixed feelings now about singing along to Toto’s song ‘Africa.’ What a patronising load of crap.

I hear the drums echoing tonight

But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation

She’s coming in 12:30 flight

The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation

I stopped an old man along the way

Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies

He turned to me as if to say

“Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you!”

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

I bless the rains down in Africa

Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

The wild dogs cry out in the night [the Muzungu: that'll be the street dogs running amok!]

As they grow restless longing for some solitary company

I know that I must do what’s right

Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti [the Muzungu: hmmm? geography!]

I seek to cure what’s deep inside

Frightened of this thing that I’ve become [the Muzungu: not a good lyric writer, I'm telling ya!]

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

I bless the rains down in Africa

Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you

There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do

I bless the rains down in Africa

Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

So, Dearest Reader, apparently “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 [Africa is a country is it? Well, blow me, I never knew that!] but he must leave if he is going to be with her.”

“Toto keyboard player David Paich wrote the song, and explained: “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.” [You don’t say!]

Jeez what did I start? I wish I hadn’t Googled this. What a depressing load of uneducated rubbish. There’s so little exposure of the many wonderful, beautiful, talented and extraordinary things happening right now on this continent. Writing Diary of a Muzungu is my minuscule, personal attempt at trying to combat some of the many negative perceptions and untruths about Africa.

Are you (still?) a Toto fan? Does Uganda fit your idea of ‘a holiday of a lifetime’?

Yes or no? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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12 Responses to Were Toto right about Africa?

  1. lizziena says:

    Yes Uganda does fit as a ‘holiday of a lifetime’. Been there and dunnit. Would love to do it again.

  2. Nat says:

    I still love it! He has emotion in his voice when he sings it and it reminds me of a thousand waragi fuelled nights in Ugandan bars :)
    However I do admit that I listened to it sober not long ago and queried some of the sentences! It’s artistic licence Cha xx

    • the muzungu says:

      Nat – “Artistic licence” – that will be the Uganda Waragi talking! I admit this song’s a ‘real belter’ – and one of the few I know (just about) all the words to!

  3. Barbara says:

    I’m actually planning to visit both Uganda and Rwanda next June. Really looking forward to it. The only other part of Africa that I’ve visited is South Africa and Botswana a few years ago. I found your blog when googling about Uganda and have been enjoying reading it.

    • the muzungu says:

      Hi Barbara, thanks for taking the time to comment. You will love East Africa! Uganda and Rwanda are very different. Uganda is sprawling, disorganised, often hectic and very relaxed. Rwanda is far more organised, people are more reserved and of course the country is a lot smaller. I’ve travelled to Rwanda twice this year, and once to Burundi. Stacks more stories to write about each country. The food in Burundi has inspired me to create a new section all about African food & I’m adding new sections dedicated to Rwanda and Burundi. If you’d like to sign up to my newsletter, I’ll send you a link when the new sections go live. Where do you plan to go when you’re in Uganda?

  4. Sophie says:

    Have spent several weeks in Uganda this spring, researching my thesis. Found that although it was confusing at times, there were many great people, many fascinating projects and a lot of things that just did not fit all those stereotypes about “Africa”. Never understood the meaning of that song when I was younger (internet and googling lyrics just didn’t exist yet) and now think it’s rather weird…but still like it because the 80s were just part of my youth :)

    • the muzungu says:

      Thanks for commenting Sophie, and I agree, “Africa” is part of my youth too – damn Google for demystifying all my romantic ideas about the song!
      Uganda is an incredible place. Not always easy to live and work here but I find visitors either stay or come back. That says a huge amount

  5. Andrea says:

    Not very good at this blog lark – hence the first time I’ve left a message. Whilst Toto were warbling Africa, we were skiing by day and then dancing to that very number – along with Rick, Gipsy Kings, Gainsburg etc etc – by night at the Playboy. How many years ago???

    • the muzungu says:

      Andrea! Thanks for commenting! Do you think I can EVER listen to that song w/out thinking about you? You and me sat with un demi at the bar, belting out the words… VIVE LE GROSSE EQUIPE! How many years ago? Not publicly posting the answer to that one darling! ;) xx

  6. Dee says:

    Churchill did say Uganda was called ‘The pearl of Africa’ for a reason ……….
    Even the most paranoid Traveller, find themselves quickly embraced, with a warmth, that can overwhelm the naturally reserved, but it comes from a good place, that is natural to US :)
    Then any query is tackled with enthusiasm, whether we know the solution or not, understand the many accents or not, we just want to be there for our guests, with a smile …….. chances are they are our visitors for life ….. Welcome!

    • the muzungu says:

      I’ve noticed something very special about visitors to Uganda: they either come back – or never leave! (Five years so far in my case…)
      Thanks for making us feel so welcome :)

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