Toto, “Mushanga” from The Seventh One (1988): Toto Tuesdays

Toto, a band more traditionally known far more for their musicianship than their lyrics, delivers an interesting tale on this stand-out track from 1988’s The Seventh One: A magazine writer meets and becomes captivated by a South-African girl named Mushanga, while on assignment in South Africa.

That’s not the only thing, however, that helps set “Mushanga” apart from some of their other material. It isn’t merely a great Toto song; it’s a veritable drum clinic from the late Jeff Porcaro. I’d argue from a drumming perspective, the “Mushanga groove” is second only to Jeff’s “Rosanna” shuffle. (Jeff even included a glimpse of how he came up with the this groove in an instructional drumming video in the late ’80s.)

Elsewhere, “Mushanga” features in-the-pocket bass playing by Mike Porcaro that segues into exceptional flamenco-esque guitar by Steve Lukather, and some guest steel drumming by Andy Narell. Jim Horn, who took an terrific turn on “You Are the Flower” from Toto’s debut, returns to contribute tasty flute and recorder embellishments that further season this track.

In addition to Jeff Porcaro’s drum clinic, “Mushanga” provided Joe Williams an opportunity to show off his vocal range and talents. Starting soft and understated, Joe’s vocals shift into high gear at about 1:03 and build from there into a powerful proclamation: “You smiled though you were suffering; I didn’t understand!” Williams belts it out with seeming ease, and undisputed power.

While “Mushanga” is unlike anything Toto recorded before or has recorded since, it is quite definitively Toto and it still works within the context of the rest of The Seventh One, despite being so different from anything else on the album. With so much going on in the song, it’s a musical feast from start to finish. Bon Apetit!

Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the rich musical history of Toto. The group returned with ‘Toto XIV’ in 2015, their first album in nearly a decade.



Perplexio also maintains a stand-alone blog called The Review Revue, where he explores music, movies and books. He spearheaded 'Saturdays in the Park,' our weekly multi-writer, song-by-song series focused on the music of Chicago. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse