The Los Angeles-based choir, Angel City Chorale, above, captured the Internet’s imagination in a big way with their 2013 cover of Toto’s 1982 hit, "Africa," in which the group’s 160 performers created a realistic-sounding thunderstorm using only their hands.
Delightful! And more common than you may at first think.
The Chorale acknowledges that they owe a great debt to Slovenian vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile’s thunderous 2008 rendition. Stagehands accustomed to creating credible thunderclaps by waving wiggly sheets of aluminum backstage may want to switch to hundreds of feet hopping up and down in unison, as heard at the 1-minute mark, below.
Go a bit further back to find an actual African choir’s finger-snapping, thigh-smacking "Africa."
The Kearsney College Choir is based near Durban, South Africa, and they appear to have been the first to open this number with the now-famous rainstorm effect. Its members are school boys ranging in age from 13 to 18. The video below shows them performing the tune in the 2008 World Choir Games, an annual competition that will be taking place on their home turf this year.
Interestingly, there’s not that much rain in the original. Over the years Toto’s songwriters, David Paich and Jeff Porcaro have made various statements about its origins—a guy transfixed by images of suffering Africans on TV, a lonely missionary, a visit to the 1964 World’s Fair’s Africa pavilion …
There’s a bit of rain to be seen in the very 80’s official music video, but nothing that rivals the choirs’ spectacular downpours.
If you’re moved to whip up a tempest of your own, Jbrary’s children's librarians, Dana Horrocks and Lindsey Krabbenhoft, have created an instructional video that shows just how simple the effect is to master. The real trick is enlisting 100s of friends to do it at the same time.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Monday, April 23 for the third installment of her literary-themed variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.