Over seven million. That’s how many times people from all over the world have pointed their browsers to YouTube and watched Angel City Chorale’s version of “Africa,” the classic 1980s pop hit originally recorded by Toto.
It’s hard to believe now that “Africa” was almost not released when Toto first recorded it in 1982. Toto keyboardist David Paich says that the song “barely made it; it just got on the end of the Toto IV album. It’s the one that didn’t get away, you know?”
Angel City Chorale is thrilled that “Africa” was the one that didn’t get away. The song has given us the chance to connect with listeners worldwide. It’s incredibly humbling to read the reactions that listeners are sharing in the comments on YouTube. One listener really got to the heart of what Angel City Chorale is all about: “it is amazing to witness what so many, many people can accomplish in unity and harmony,” they commented. Just as exciting to us are the number of people who commented that we’ve inspired them to start singing. You can see it over and over again in the YouTube comments: “I wanna be in a choir!” “Makes me want to learn how to sing,” and more. It’s one thing to know that you’ve made someone’s day with a musical performance. But knowing that you’ve inspired them to start making music, too? That can feel like you’ve shared a deeply meaningful experience with someone.
Angel City Chorale isn’t the first choral group to move people to sing along with “Africa.” Director Sue Fink says she was inspired by two other renditions of the song. A version by Solvenian vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile that went viral in 2009 heavily influenced Angel City’s version. An earlier version by the Kearnsey College Choir of South Africa, complete with an incredibly evocative a cappella rainstorm, inspired both Angel City and Perpetuum Jazzile. “We did our own choral and instrumental arrangement, but we did borrow the hand gestures, the lightning…” Indeed “Africa” has connected three groups from different corners of the world, just as it has connected YouTube viewers from all over the globe.
Fink thinks that part of the success of Angel City’s version of “Africa” is due to the way it spoke to people at a very particular moment. Shortly after the video was posted to YouTube, there was a drought in South Africa. “Everyone was praying for rain,” Fink says, “and a South African online newspaper shared the video and it just took off like that.” She also suspects that listeners are moved by the energy behind Angel City’s performance. “People see something joyous in our diversity.”
Angel City Chorale hopes that, with every YouTube view, we bring joy to someone new and inspire someone else to sing along.
– Alexandra Apolloni