A new recording of ‘They Told Me This Is Africa’

African sun poured down like rain upon my skin

the door to change kicked open

and i stumbled in

traded in the freeway

and the smell of the salt-sea air

learnt to walk the red-dust road over there

over there

and they told me this is Africa

they told me this is Africa

and they said that this is how it’s done

limousines and beggars

cries of peace behind the pointed gun

African song flowed down in a river of hope and tears

and the children smiled at me

sheltered by their years

and the people wrote their dreams

in shades of black and white

no Berlin wall was made to fall

across the line between day and night

and they told me this is Africa

they told me this is Africa

and they said that this is how it’s done

limousines and beggars

cries of peace behind the pointed gun

African journey brought me half a universe away

as i stepped into the night in Bombay

a thousand fingers clutched my hands

and begged to walk with me

someone threw some pennies down and said

‘hey, just let it be’

and they told me this is India

they told me this is India

and they said that this is how it’s done

limousines and beggars

cries of peace behind the pointed gun

African sun came down, bled its colours across the sky

i looked out on the red dust road

and said goodbye

then the silence that held me

was broken like a toy

as a city fell in flames

and the gun reached for the boy

and they told me this is Bosnia

they told me this is Bosnia

and they said that this is how it’s done

limousines and beggars

cries of peace behind the pointed gun

In the ten years since this song was recorded, tragically nothing has really changed, especially on the continent of Africa. When the words to this song began flowing out one night, not long after I had returned from a year living and working in Zimbabwe, my experiences and memories of that beautiful country were ones of peace and stability.Zimbabwe was a country where wars had taken place, but which were now ‘history’ to be told around the table after dinner or around a camp set up on the banks of the Zambezi River, after a day of fishing and safariing.
A starkly different country it is now, and just in the last month Kenya has seen the outbreak of civil unrest and ethnic cleansing within its borders. One reporter has gone so far as to compare what is happening there now with what took place in Rwanda in the ’90’s.

The journey this song has taken, from the time I first played it to a dear friend on her piano, to now, has surprised and amazed us. I have often said to friends that I could easily write a book about the places it has traveled to and the extraordinary people we have met through it.
This is, in fact, the song that introduced us to Crossroads and eventually brought us as a family to Hong Kong. As we prepare to record a new version of this song, we realise totally that the original recording will always be THE recording and cannot be replaced or, I suspect, bettered. It will remain a testimony to the passion, dedication and skills of our friend Nonda, who engineered and produced the entire album, and of the musicians and singers who gave themselves so unreservedly to its recording.

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