'I froze my brain up in Canada': Manitoban's parody song about the cold sees thousands of views

What started off as a way to get through a cold day in Oak Lake, Man., Friday has turned into a viral online video for a Manitoba man and his family.

The parody version started as a way to get through a chilly winter day

Robert Thiessen, left, and his brother-in-law Joe Kaonga perform in a parody music video of Toto's 'Africa' about Manitoba's winter that's gotten nearly 30,000 views since Thiessen posted it on Facebook early Saturday. (Submitted/Facebook)

What started off as a way to get through a cold day in Oak Lake, Man., Friday has turned into a viral online video for a Manitoba man and his family.

The video, posted by Robert Thiessen to his Facebook page early Saturday, features Thiessen and his brother-in-law Joe Kaonga doing their version of Toto's 1982 classic 'Africa.' But instead of singing about the rains down in Africa, the pair sing about, well, the cold up in Canada.

And it was cold up in Canada when Thiessen came up with his version.

"I was looking out across my front yard feeling miserable and cold, and I've had that Africa song stuck in my head this week...  I'm always making up random words to songs and I thought 'I froze my brain up in Canada'," said Thiessen of the -40 weather that inspired the tune. "It just kind of hit me, just kind of being goofy and I thought I'd go with it."

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The 36-year-old got right to work finishing the lyrics and enlisted his sister to shoot the music video and Kaonga — who is originally from Zambia — to sing back-up and play percussion on a Tim Hortons cup.

"We filmed it and recorded it that evening and got it on Facebook by three in the morning," said Thiessen, who plays in a band with his brothers in his spare time. "We probably did it all in six to eight hours."

The video also includes cameo performances from Thiessen's wife and daughter.

By the time the family woke up Saturday morning the video had been viewed a few thousand times, and by Sunday night nearly 30,000 people had seen it.

"I figured it would be good timing and worth putting the effort in because people are going to be sitting around looking for something to do, you might as well give them a little comedy," said Thiessen."The purpose was just to bring a little cheer in this nasty cold."

'I definitely had a little frostbite'

And they had to put up with some nasty cold to put the video together.

Thiessen, his sister, and Kaonga spent the afternoon getting what he calls the "goofy shots" filmed for the video,  including outdoor scenes of him sticking his tongue to a metal pole, and 'jump starting' a frozen Kaonga — using jumper cables connected to both of their nipples.

While the day shots were cold, the night shots of the pair actually singing the song next to a campfire were the worst, says Thiessen, adding it was -44 with the wind chill outside and the shots took a good 20 minutes to get just right.

"Oh yeah, I definitely had a little frostbite on a couple of my fingers," he laughs. "On my chording hand my ring finger and pinky were pretty sore the next day."

This isn't Thiessen's first foray into parody videos. During a blizzard last winter that knocked the power at his house, the part-time musician wrote and performed a version of George Harrison's 'Here Comes the Sun' called 'We Need the Sun'.

On mobile? Watch here. 

The video he shot and posted of that song got some 23,000 views.

Thiessen says he comes up with parody lyrics to songs as the mood strikes, and he's hopeful the next time the mood next strikes it isn't quite as cold outside.


Shane Gibson


Shane was a CBC Manitoba journalist. He has nearly a decade of experience reporting in Winnipeg and around Manitoba.