Recorded in 1981 and released on September 30, 1982 as the third single on Toto’s fourth studio album Toto IV, “Africa,” has gone from hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1983 to its current place in popular culture as a meme. Not being lost but being beloved during the course of that journey.
Now, I’ll admit that a friend of mine who remains steadfast that Hold the Line is the better song, which I respectfully disagree with, because it’s more of the I don’t want to go with the crowd pick. And not much of this is relevant except to say that I wanted to create this list of Africa covers, since Weezer put it on their cover album. I wanted to dig into just how many versions of this song there are out in the world… And the answer is a lot.
This is not a complete list, there are undoubtedly more cover versions out there, but I do believe this is a comprehensive list as far as genre and meme are concerned.
So, before we dig into the cover list proper, let’s start with the original.
Africa by Toto
The original that everyone loves or tolerates, which has become, in this meme culture of ours, a meme in and of itself. Not a lot of songs can top the charts and then find new life as memes, and certainly not classic songs that aren’t “Never Gonna Give You Up” type songs. So, here it is. A classic as it was originally recorded and released.
1. Africa by Weezer
We all know the story of this single person crowdsourced cover movement. @WeezerAfrica was an account created on Twitter just for Weezer to cover Africa by Toto and Weezer did just that, and now this cover gets almost as much airplay as the original.
But that’s a fairly authentic cover… So… Let’s look into some less authentic ones by genre-hopping.
2. Africa by Howie Day
I’ll be honest here… I didn’t think that a voice and an acoustic guitar alone would be enough to cover this song. But not only is it possible, I enjoy Howie Day’s straight acoustic cover. Meaning that no matter what you think of the rest of the covers on this list, minimal can work…
3. Africa by Pyogenesis
This German metal band seems to have covered Africa with an electronica meets metal version that might be considered avant-garde metal. It’s not like some of the other metal or rock covers on this list, and that is what sets it apart and also kinda makes me like it.
4. Africa by Avant
It’s not hard to take the original version and make this Rhythm & Blues version out of it, as Myron Lavell Avant, known simply as Avant has done. But what makes this one work for me, is that he didn’t overproduce his cover. It would have been entirely too easy for him to overdub and layer vocals on vocals on vocals on vocals, but that’s not the case. In this R&B cover Avant went simple and it’s good in its simplicity.
5. Africa by Hackney Colliery Band
I don’t care what anyone says. Brass band covers are great and fun in unexpected ways. As such, I’m a huge fan of the master of brass band covers Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass, but since he hasn’t covered Africa yet, the Hackney Colliery Band is as close as I’ll get to that mashup and I like it.
6. Africa by Nektar
The second german band to make the list, this german rock band creates an electric/acoustic upbeat cover that is close to the original in many of the same ways Weezer’s cover is, and yet it’s still different enough and it works, because unlike Weezer, Nektar embraces a different side of the 80s rock than the original did pan flute.
7. Africa by Leo Moracchioli featuring Rabea & Hannah
Leo Moracchioli from his Frog Leap Studios has a YouTube Channel full of new metal covers of tons of songs. The thing about this cover is that you can’t help but get sucked into the fun that was had when Leo and friends were recording this cover. And it doesn’t hurt that it is exactly what you know of the song that is being covered and the new metal genre, with perhaps the best guitar solo on this list. Plus it just gets heavier the longer you listen…
8. Africa by Legowelt
Legowelt’s cover is what I would consider electronic, but as his style is described as “a hybrid form of slam jack combined with deep Chicago house, romantic ghetto technofunk and EuroHorror Soundtrack” l would presume there’s more to this cover than I can hear. But I do like what I hear, so well done with the mix, Sir.
9. Africa by The Shadows
Maybe the oldest cover of the song, The Shadows is an instrumental rock band from England, who I was surprised to learn are still touring, but in 1983 they released XXV which contained, beyond Africa which was the first track, Up Where We Belong, and Whiter Shade of Pale to name a couple. When it comes to instrumental covers, may I suggest The Shadows be the first band you check out?
10. Africa by Andy McKee
Andy McKee is an exceptional fingerstyle guitar player, who has created an amazing acoustic guitar instrumental version of Africa, that displays not only his talent but the fact that there are no limits to one person with the right amount of skill on a single acoustic guitar. And the video is just him playing so that you can see it really is just him and his guitar. And just keep watching to see how he accompanies himself playing the solo. Breathtaking.
11. Africa by Emmerson Nogueira
Now let’s keep the acoustic guitar but add in a backing band and some Brazilian flair to the song. Nogueira finds Africa with a Brazilian beat and now I wonder if the Brazilian beat wasn’t there all along and I just didn’t notice it until someone played to it harder than Toto. Think about that as we move on.
12. Africa by Brad Davis
I may not be the largest country fan, but I can deal with bluegrass a little bit and Brad Davis’ version of Africa from “Pickin’ on the Biggest Hits of the 1980s Vol. 2” is pretty damn good. Even if it has more of that “good ole boys” Dukes of Hazzard feel, it’s still Africa as you know it, just with more fiddle than you’re used to.
13. Africa by Floppotron
Look, if you’re not familiar with The Floppotron, this cover may leave you scratching your head, but the technology of yesteryear is still good for making music, so that’s what The Floppotron does, and all of the covers that it does are fantastic, so after you’ve listened to Africa, listen to the other stuff The Floppotron has in store for you.
14. Africa by 8 Bit Universe
Similar in technology to The Floppotron, because the limitations of 8-bit are similar to the limitations that the old hardware creates, this 8-bit version is one of many, but 8 bit Universe is pretty prolific in their 8-bit covers, so if you enjoy this, you should see what else they have available to discover. I mean, when it comes to 8-bit music, we all know a couple of the various Mario themes and Tetris, but 8 bit can do so much more.
15. Africa by Affiance
I didn’t know Metalcore was a thing, but this makes sense since this cover is metal and hardcore with some punk thrown into a blender. It’s odd to hear a cover that somehow fronts as more than one genre of music all different from the original.
16. Africa by Retrocity
A cappella is a thing. It isn’t necessarily my thing, but I acknowledge that it exists and that this cover by Retrocity from their “Totally 80s A Cappella” album is pretty good. For me, I’m always interested in how an a cappella group deal with percussion, and Retrocity does fairly well in this regard, so good on them.
17. Africa by The Moon Loungers
And if we’re going to have an a cappella group there’s nothing to stop me from having a “lounge singer” or “wedding band” type cover of Africa, so enter The Moon Loungers, “the finest wedding band in Bristol and the South West.” That’s in the United Kingdom for those of you who were unaware, but as compared to say Sandler’s The Wedding Singer, these guys are pretty good. In fact, compared to the rest of this list, they belt out a tune that shows they belong here.
18. Africa by Erock
Here’s the straightest metal instrumental that exists for Africa, and it’s by Erock, who has made his bones on YouTube giving the instrumental metal treatment to any kind of song you can think of including pop songs and theme songs. And if you think I’m just picking a random guy with a guitar for this one, well… This random guy has 1.5 million YouTube subscribers as I draft this list, so that’s something. Plus he does my friend (remember my friend from the intro of this list?) a solid by breaking into “Hold the Line” in the video as well.
19. Africa by Boston Guitar Orchestra
From one guy with an electric guitar to many musicians and their many acoustic guitars, this instrumental version by the Boston Guitar Orchestra, and I didn’t even know that guitar orchestras were a thing, is pretty good, but not unexpected when you see what has preceded it on this list with just one guitar. But it’s still cool and the harmonics in the layering are beautiful.
20. Africa by Sum of the Acoustix & Justin Belew
Sum of the Acoustix I interpret to mean no electrics make this cover of Africa sound very much like elevator music, except that in this version it’s actually good. It’s not like other elevator music where you have to think about what you’re listening to… This is just a good “unplugged” cover of the song plus more flute..
21. Africa by Alex Britt on Mario Paint Composer
Remember Mario Paint? Well… If you want to transpose a song into it, you can, it just takes a while and most of us don’t have that kind of time, or patience, or skill… But Alex Britt does! And while I personally still never understood what the point of Mario Paint was… This seems like as good a reason for it as any.
22. Africa by Valtteri Nieminen
Valtteri has just created a very authentic cover of Africa, but in watching him play and create this cover all by himself, and I presume in layering and mixing it, this is no small feat or minor challenge. And I feel like his cover is worthy of note, so on the list, it goes… Also, I’m kinda jealous, because I just don’t have that much musical talent, some, but not nearly that much, so I’m also including him on the list because it’s just very impressive overall.
23. Africa by Amy Turk Harp
Speaking of impressive, who even plays the harp anymore? Amy Turk does, and her cover of Africa on that instrument is breathtaking. Now, for me, all I ever learned of or knew of the harp as an instrument came from Harpo Marx and the Marx Brothers, so even in a serious sense, I’m in awe of the instrument. In truth, the six strings of a guitar still trick me up and I like to think I’m an intermediate player on that instrument!
24. Africa by Mathiew Terrade
Ok. So, this cover was created on Harpejji G16. I don’t even know what that is, so I looked it up for the both of us. It’s “an electric stringed musical instrument developed in 2007 by Tim Meeks” and “aims to bridge the gap in sound and technique between the guitar, bass guitar, and piano.” So, a couple of things; first, it sounds cool, and second, there are new instruments being made? Lastly… Was there a gap in sound and technique between guitar, bass guitar, and piano?
25. Africa by Jackson Parodi
Jackson Parodi’s accordion cover of Africa is everything you’re thinking it is. So if you aren’t a fan of accordion it’s exactly what you’re thinking, and if you are a fan of accordion, it’s still exactly what you’re thinking. Either way, it is authentic and it’s not like just anyone can pick up an accordion and actually make music.
26. Africa by Peter Bence
This piano cover of Africa is brilliant for two reasons. First, it is authentic which everything on this list has been, but most importantly, Peter plays the piano with a showmanship that is on par with Chico and Harpo Marx, and let’s be honest… If you don’t know what I’m talking about there please watch a classic Marx Bros movie and enjoy the insanity; I’d recommend Duck Soup or The Cocoanuts, but one of the Marx Bros will sit and “perform at” not just play the piano during most of the films.
27. Africa by Amasic
Amasic was a Canadian rock band, who are now known as Story Untold, but this cover of Africa is on the list because it’s very pop-punk and makes me feel like this is how Blink-182 would cover the song if it came out as a bonus single during their Enema of the State/Take off Your Pants & Jacket era. So, in the case of this cover, it is what it is. And if you like pop-punk, you’ll like this cover.
28. Africa by The Holophonics
While The Holophonics is generally a punk rock band, or at least so says the internet, they do quite a few ska and reggae covers of popular songs and Africa was on their list of songs to get the treatment. Most notably for me is that the horns in this cover are superbly on point! I do like a solid horn section.
29. Africa by Brock Baker 29 Cartoon Impressions
This was a no-brainer. Brock Baker does a million voices (which might be a slight exaggeration). But he also uses the many voices he does to cover popular tunes and coming in at 29 on this list is Brock Baker singing Africa by Toto with 29 Cartoon Impressions, because that’s poetry. And even if it isn’t, I’m saying it is, and Baker is super talented and you should check him out.
30. Africa by Angel City Chorale
From one man doing many voices to one group of many voices, it’s the Angel City Chorale which does have some accompaniment, so that’s what separates it from the a cappella earlier in the list. It’s really good, and it’s cool to see them recreate the rain to start the song on the video.
31. Africa by L’Orchestra Cinematique
Moving from an “orchestra” of voices to an orchestra that mainly creates epic “film” versions of songs and what L’Orchestra Cinematique did in recording this epic version of Africa makes me want to watch whatever this is the theme for. It’s as grandiose as anything that’s been written for a film or television series in the last few decades!
32. Africa by Million Dollar Band
I couldn’t in good faith create this list without having a marching band version of Africa on it, and The University of Alabama’s Million Dollar Band has an amazing version available for us to listen to. It’s just Africa tried and true, but played by a whole marching band and while we don’t get the whole song, we get enough of it.
33. Africa by Staten Island Technical High School Jazz Band
I also had to look and find a jazz band cover, because I was also in a jazz band when I was just a little one, and this version is done by Bill Sweeney’s local Staten Island Technical High School Jazz Band, and while I know he has no affiliation with them, they’re both on Staten Island, which is close enough as far as I’m concerned.
And do you want to know what all of these covers have in common? It genuinely looks like they are all enjoying what they are doing. Just like the best video “cover” by Dax and Kristen.
Dax & Kristen Lip Sync