A Classics Take on a Classic 80s Song

In Medias Res
Sep 27 · 2 min read
The cover is epic… but it’s even more epic in Latin. (source)

[Editor’s Note: Students have been asking for a Latin version of Toto’s “Africa” ever since the Weezer cover came out in 2018. But the difficulty of the lyrics slowed down the production of a Latin version. I sent a small fragment of a version of the chorus (“beat[i] imbres in Africa”) to Jason Pedicone, who composed the version you see below, which was used for Living Latin in Rome 2019. Not completely satisfied with the results, it received some more edits this fall. It’s a difficult song — how does one say “her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me toward salvation” in one Latin line? It’d be hard to do better than “speculo alarum vidi stellas me servantes” (“in the mirror of her wings I saw the stars that are saving me”). As far as singing the song goes, it should be prepped and practiced beforehand. The original and this Latin version both have large numbers of quick syllables: right from the beginning, you have to get four quick syllables out (“Ego REso”) and later “utpote” is almost disyllabic it has to be so fast (matching the original “as sure as,” which sounds like “sure as”). The chorus can be done effectively only with practice, but it’s worth it.]

AFRICA (Toto)(Painch/Porcaro)(tr. Pedicone/Kuhner)[1981]

Ego resonare tympana
Sub noct’ audio sed illa modo murmurantes
Advolat nocte media
Speculo alarum vidi stellas me servantes

Senem in via constiti
Carmina neglecta quaesitans vel verba vetera
Vertit ut dicturus mihi “Propera, expectat te, puer”

[chorus]
Vix me posses a te distrahere
Hoc non possent sescenti vel plures agere
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
Tempus erat numquam habenda facere-e-e-e-e-e-e (utique)

Ululant catuli foras
Inquieti avium convivium volentes
Et faciendum’st mihi fas
Utpote Kilimanjaro surgens par Olympo imminet Serenghetis
Conor ut intus medicer, timeo ne ips’ ego fiam

[chorus]
Vix me posses a te distrahere
Hoc non possent sescenti vel plures agere
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
Tempus erat numquam habenda facere-e-e-e-e-e-e (utique)

[instrumentis]

Propera, expectat te, puer

Vix me posses a te distrahere
Hoc non possent sescenti vel plures agere
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
(Beat’ imbres)
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
(Beat’ imbres)
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
Benedic’ imbres in Africa
Tempus erat numquam habenda petere (utique)

In Medias Res

A magazine for lovers of the Classics, published by the Paideia Institute.

In Medias Res

Written by

A magazine for lovers of the Classics, published by the Paideia Institute.

In Medias Res

A magazine for lovers of the Classics, published by the Paideia Institute.

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