Bill has been writing about music culture online for five years. He's always on the lookout for amazing new music.
Weezer gained a lot of attention recently for their cover of Toto's "Africa." (Here they are performing it with Weird Al.) And, in what was just a beautiful exchange, Toto covered Weezer's "Hash Pipe" in return, but that's a story for a different article.
But Weezer isn't the first to pick up the Toto gauntlet. A lot of other bands have tried their hand at performing "Africa." They range from a rendition voiced by a rubber chicken to an uninspired version by the usually fantastic Postmodern Jukebox. Despite the fact that it's a song nearly everyone has sung along to enthusiastically, it seems to be a tricky one for folks to get a handle on. It lends itself to gimmicks, lethargy, singing-by-the-numbers, and overly self-aware smarminess. Fortunately, some folks get it right, at least in my estimation.
So, with that being said, here are five great non-Weezer covers of "Africa."
5. Projecto Z—A South American Africa
Projecto Z is a Brazilian band. Judging by their web page and my very limited ability to read Portuguese, they do a lot of covers, and are available for corporate events and that sort of thing. No shame in that; working musicians have to do what working musicians have to do. If that truly is their main line of work, perhaps it explains why this is probably the most straightforward, faithful cover to make the list. That may seem like faint praise, but there's a lot of talent in this band, and, darn it, their version just radiates happiness.
4. Dan Vasc—Four Voices, One Guy
When I went on my "Africa" Cover Quest, I've got to admit I wasn't expecting much when I stumbled across this one. There are a lot of people on YouTube who make a career out of mugging for the camera, and while Dan may be just a bit guilty in that department, his care and attention to detail when crafting his version of this song really shine. I ended up believing that he genuinely loves this song, and that kind of sincerity counts for a lot. And, honestly, check out the harmonies at 3:35... those are solid!
3. Andy McKee—Keeping Africa Acoustic
Andy McKee is a guitar virtuoso from Topeka Kansas, and he does everything imaginable in this cover. Slapping the guitar with one hand to create drum sounds while also playing the melody on the neck with the other hand, he captures the song's swelling chorus perfectly. This is a great version to put on surreptitiously and await the moment your friends suddenly realize what they're hearing and demand to know where they can get it.
2. Leo Moracchioli feat. Rabea & Hannah—As Loud as a Hundred Men, or More
One of the most important questions facing humanity is just this: Can a yacht rock song be used to melt one's face off? The answer, as judged by this version of "Africa," by Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Leo Moracchioli, would seem to be an unqualified YES. I do wish the video was a little less hammy, but maybe that sort of thing is inherent in the approach here. Honestly, of all the covers of this song, this is the one I play the most.
1. TG Lurgan - Forgotten Words Or Ancient Melodies
And then, there's this masterpiece—TG Lurgan performing "Africa" in Irish as part of the TG Lurgan project of the Coláiste Lurgan school in Connemara. The rain effect at the beginning is an immediate attention-getter. Put on your headphones and close your eyes and you'll swear it is raining. (To be fair, that technique is not unique to this version, there are others out there that attempt the same thing, but with less success.) Throw in the beautiful, alien-yet-familiar language, the radiant young people, the surprise factor, and you've got yourself the number one "Africa" cover on this list.
And there you have it. Five Weezer-worthy covers of "Africa." Are there any others out there that rise to the level of these? I'd love to hear one if you know of it. And, if there aren't any more yet... keep your ears open. The great thing about timeless songs like this one is that they're always there to be discovered by a new listener... One who just might reinterpret a classic in a new way and share their version with us.