Toto’s “Africa” is possibly one of the most frequently covered songs since its original release in 1982, but this rendition using traditional Japanese instruments might just be the most unique arrangement yet. Produced by Japan’s public broadcasting corporation NHK for their Blends TV series, the video shows three talented female musicians effortlessly performing an epic Asian version of the ‘80s classic.
Kanami Takeda plays the Tsugaru-jamisen; a long, three-stringed guitar-like instrument; Maico Miyamoto plays percussion on a steelpan; and Azumi Yamano plays the koto: a wooden, 13-stringed instrument featuring parts named after a dragon. The video starts by explaining that one end of the main body is called the “dragon head,” the other is known as the “dragon’s tail,” and the patterned wood grain resembles dragon scales. We then see how Yamano plucks the strings using traditional plectrums, worn on the fingers.
The musical trio are filmed performing at the World Cultural Heritage Center of Kamo-wake-ikazuchi-Jinja, Kyoto— the oldest Shinto shrine in the ancient city. Their cover of Toto’s Africa transforms the popular tune from an ‘80s power ballad to a delicate instrumental rendition, culturally rich with the sounds of traditional Japanese instruments.
You can see more east-meets-west covers on the NHK Blends website.