Watch Choirs Around the World Simulate the Rainstorm in Toto’s “Africa” Using Only Their Hands

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.

Buy Per­petu­um Jazz­ile’s “Africa” CD and vocal arrange­ments here.

Down­load Angel City Chorale’s “Africa” sin­gle on iTunes or CDBa­by.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pak­istani Musi­cians Play a Delight­ful Ver­sion of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Clas­sic, “Take Five”

Feel Strange­ly Nos­tal­gic as You Hear Clas­sic Songs Reworked to Sound as If They’re Play­ing in an Emp­ty Shop­ping Mall: David Bowie, Toto, Ah-ha & More

What Makes This Song Great?: Pro­duc­er Rick Beato Breaks Down the Great­ness of Clas­sic Rock Songs in His New Video Series

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.

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