How Secondary Chords, Syncopated Rhythms and Functional Harmony Make Toto’s ‘Africa’ So Iconic

Doodling music theorist and musician 12tone analyzed the “internet’s favorite song“, namely “Africa” by Toto. As notes from the song play, the narrator explains how the use of syncopated rhythms (beats in between the beats) give the song’s intro an iconic feel, while the use of functional harmony and secondary subdominants allows the song to move around freely and quite cleverly within the key and within the mode.

Do you hear the drums echo in the night, or do you hear only whispers of some quiet conversation? Either way, we’re taking a look at one of the most famous songs on the internet, Africa, by Toto. It sounds simple, but Toto was full of brilliant session musicians, and they managed to bury a lot of really clever touches in it, including possibly the most interesting piece of harmony we’ve looked at yet. Plus, it’s got one of the most iconic riffs of all time, so that’s pretty cool.