When I first heard the song “Africa” a few years ago, I thought it was initially one of those love ballads about two people coming together in Africa and the music video even supports this theory. But upon further examination, I’ve discovered that perhaps this is not actually the case as to what Africa is about. The following is my examination of the lyrics.
“I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation”
Of course, you think the way it’s set up here is going to be a love song. But who is she? She is a counterpart of the man’s own personality. She is possibly a softer side of him. He hears drums and she hears only whispers.
“She’s coming in, 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation”
She is coming in at 12:30 am as identified by the moonlit stars. The moonlit stars guide him towards salvation but what is this salvation? It is himself trying to find his softer side again.
“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””
Now we see that the man is actually having a delusion about his softer side coming in. His softer side hasn’t been with him in forever. He is trying to find the ancient melodies. The old man is himself, already in madness. The older man is trying to tell him to hurry before he misses his one last opportunity at sanity again.
“It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do”
This expresses the man’s descent into the status of a beast. He is actually devouring everyone in sight and no one can stop him.
“I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had”
The rains in Africa represent fertility. A fertile moment in his life where he wasn’t a madman. He wants to do be sane again so he can do more as a sane person.
“The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless, longing for some solitary company”
He is the wild dogs though. The wild dogs represent his madness. He longs for solitary company–his sanity returned to him. It’s not coming.
“I know that I must do what’s right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti”
He knows that he has to do what’s right.
“I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become”
But he can’t because he’s become a madman.
After the second chorus:
“Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you”
Notice how “it” became a “she”. This is evidence that the “she” in the song was never actually meant to be a person but was meant to be a metaphorical object (kind of like how a boat or a ship are called “she”). This is the last moments of his sanity that his older self is trying to have him claim back. The older self though is the very thing that he has become.
Will you ever look at “Africa” the same way again?