A song of White wanderlust for Africa has become a literal monument to the staying power of Internet memes thanks to artist Max Siedentopf, who recently traveled deep into the Namib desert to erect “Toto Forever,” a sound installation of the band’s 1982 soft-rock staple, “Africa.” The schmaltzy tune turned über-meme has reached its logical conclusion, trolling its namesake continent IRL with its nostalgia-driven lyrics.
“I’ve listened to the song over 400 times now and I still cannot say what makes it so enduring,” the German-Namibian artist told artnet News. “It just hits the right nerves.”
The internet would certainly agree. Despite originating almost 35 years ago and already gaining quadruple platinum status, the song now boasts 440 million views on YouTube and multiple Twitter bots. “[The song] is still very much present in today’s pop culture,” Siedentopf explained to Hyperallergic over email, “even entire reddit pages are dedicated to the song. I was very intrigued by this and wanted to pay the song the ultimate homage.”
I bless the rains down in Africa
— africa by toto bot (@africabytotobot) January 16, 2019
For Siedentopf, the coastal Namib desert seemed like the perfect spot for his installation, which consists of six speakers attached to a blue MP3 player stationed atop white rectangular blocks affixed into the sand. Theoretically, the world’s oldest desert will host Totos’s “Africa” for eternity; the artist’s installation is powered by a solar battery.
“Most parts of the installation were chosen to be as durable as possible,” he noted to the BBC, “but I’m sure the harsh environment of the desert will devour the installation eventually.”
The artist, who works as a creative director at the international communications agency KesselsKramer, is not the first person to pay homage to the 1982 jammer. The band Weezer released a cover of the song in 2018 with a video starring “Weird Al” Yankovic; it was the band’s first single to top Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart in over a decade. Even the rapper Pitbull took on the Toto tune, contributing his iteration for the movie Aquaman‘s soundtrack.
All this love for a decades-old anthem that the late Jeff Porcaro, its co-writer and drummer for Toto, once described as “a white boy … trying to write a song on Africa, but since he’s never been there, he can only tell what he’s seen on TV or remembers in the past.”
Only diehard fans who search across the Namib desert’s 31,274 square miles of sand will find Siedentopf’s installation hidden among the dunes. On his website, the artist has included an unhelpful “treasure” map, which circles the entire desert as a possible location for “Toto Forever.”
Although the artist has not received any reactions from the government, he tells Hyperallergic that a few locals have given him feedback. “Some love it, some think it’s the worst sound installation ever,” he said.
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