It is often amusing to travel (even if it is a short trip to and from the farm) with people from other countries and other cultures, because one often finds out a lot of very unusual qualities about them. In particular, I amuse the students by singing along to most of the songs on our “Achan Mix,” whether it is Fleetwood Mac, Toto, Van Halen, A-Ha, or the Bee Gees, or anyone else for that matter, which often gives the students a laugh when I sing ridiculously high, as I am able to do (and which the students definitely would not expect from me, since they generally do not see me in my more “fun” moments).
One of the songs that the students (one student in particular) likes to hear over and over again is “Africa” by Toto. I’m not sure what about this song so interests the students. I mean, it’s a pleasant enough song, after all, but hardly the most spectacular song in the world. I suppose since they are from Asia that a song about Africa might seem exotic or far away. I suppose that Toto’s song about Africa was written largely because of how remote and foreign Africa seemed to them and to their listening audience in general. In a previous post of mine  I explored how Americans see the world and how Africa is viewed. While the portrayal of the song is not stereotypical, neither does it show a deep knowledge, but rather only a superficial one of one of Africa’s most famous travel locations.
Of course, one of the main selling points in the song is that it is a love song, a song about long-distance love no less. If there is one thing that is true about the students I teach, it is that they are endless in love with love songs. The love songs they really love are not even necessarily good love songs, just the sappiest and most sentimental songs that can be found. By that standard, Toto ranks very well. Toto is a future member of my series on bands that should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (I have them in as sidemen, since they performed as session musicians in a lot of 70’s music that defined the smooth professional sound of their time before going public as a moderately successful band themselves). It is their success in ballads that makes them enduringly popular even as far away as Thailand.
And because I tend to analyze lyrics a little too seriously sometimes, I am often puzzled as to why out of all of the other things that one could comment about Africa that Toto chose to focus on the rain. To be certain, it rains often in some parts of Africa (but not so often in other parts, like the Sahara Desert, Somalia, or Namibia). Thailand, of course, is generally a rainy place, and it is rainy season, so perhaps part of the reason why the song is so appealing to students is the combination of the familiar and the exotic. I must say that being a person who is drawn both to the familiar and to the exotic that the combination of both in the same package or the same song is very appealing. I suppose I am not alone in that.