Entertainment

I Went to a Bar That Only Played 'Africa' By Toto All Night

A celebration of stupidity, and a test of mental strength.
January 28, 2020, 9:15am
toto africa
A CONFUSING COSTUME. ALL PHOTOS BY THE AUTHOR

This article originally appeared on VICE Spain.

I value stupidity highly. Not your garden variety, run-of-the-mill stupidity, but the kind of decadent foolishness that leads to drinking games which involve setting your own head on fire, or memes that end in somebody getting a concussion.

A taste for this particular brand of stupidity is the only thing that would motivate dozens of people to spend a Thursday night in December gathered in a bar in Madrid, listening to the same song on repeat. Well, that and the fact the song was "Africa" by Toto – a modern classic, as much for its melody as the geographically-impossible nature of its lyrics, such as: "As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti."

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I had to go – if only to see if an entire evening of listening to one song on repeat would help me understand it better, or just drive me over the edge.

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Two anonymous friends really living it.

Truth be told, nobody knows exactly how many times the song played that evening – not even Pedro, one of the event organisers, who tried to mark each play with pen and paper. He got to 36 and lost count. But it was never about the number.

"In 2018, I started to hear the song everywhere I went," Pedro told me. "It seemed to me that it was about time to do something like this. And here we are, for the second year running."

Meanwhile, "Africa" played, constantly. Around midnight, the bar got so packed it became difficult to move, let alone make it to the line of people queuing to sing along onstage. Every time the song ended, the crowd would shout, "Again! Again! Again!" Which was totally unnecessary, because that was of course the entire point of the night. Still, when we heard the opening bars, we would jump in the air and scream with joy. Every single time.

Hearing the song on repeat had the strange and undesirable effect of time becoming completely intangible. One guy told me he could have been there 45 minutes or six hours.

"Last year, days after the party, people told me they kept hearing the song," said Pedro. "A phone rang on the bus and it sounded like 'Africa'. They passed by some road works, and it sounded like 'Africa'. It may end up affecting our mental health – but if we're happy, who cares?"

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The author with two friends.

It's worth nothing that, during the final stretch of the night, the fatigue started to show: people began to pay the price for breaking a record that literally nobody cares about.

"I can't do it anymore," said a fairly broken-looking guy sitting in a corner by himself. "My head is going to explode. I want to leave now." My friend Celia wasn't overly impressed either. "In my town, we beat the Guinness Record for the world's largest gin and tonic – previously held by Snoop Dogg," she said. "So this is nothing."

At 2:54AM, " Africa" started to play for the last time. Triumphant, those of us remaining crowded the small stage. Our shirts were gone and so were our voices. It was freezing outside and our alarms would go off in less than four hours. But it didn't matter – by that point we had looped back to beyond the point of exhaustion, and sang our hearts out to "Africa" like it was the first play of the night.

This article originally appeared on VICE ES.