Whilst putting together the write-up on Ikenga, I suddenly remembered a gentleman I refer to as my twin brother from another mother and fellow grumpy old man- Dr Sotiris Papadopoulos- Physicist and Guitar virtuoso. I proceeded to call him after digging out his telephone number and we had a memorable telephone conversation- which started with him uttering the emotional words- "You cretinous bastard where have you been!" A man with a way with words...
Sotiris was the bestman at my first wedding and has been a close friend for 18 years, since we met at Jazzville the seminal Lagos Jazz club, where he exercised his immense Guitar-playing skills in his leisure time from his job as a Senior Manager at a Brewery in Lagos at the time, a musical friendship was struck which later became a personal and business association.
Blessed with an uncanny and almost unnerving intelligence and razor sharp wit and an incredible humanity, Sotiris was born on September 17, 1956, in Volos, Greece. He left High School at 17 for Germany where he studied Physics. He moved on to Oxford where he got a Masters and PhD in Atomic Physics, not satisfied with assuming supreme nerd-hood, he then moved on to the Max Planck Institute where he worked as part of the team that supported Professor Klaus Kitzing on his Nobel Prize winning effort in the discovery of the "quantized Hall effect".
This gentleman had other professional ideas however and came to Nigeria on a Hippy visit in 1980 and famously performed on stage playing a Guitar solo with Fela Kuti at the Afrikan Shrine. He basically fell in love with the country and came back in 1987 to take up a job as Head of Department of Physics at the University of Port Harcourt. I remember Soto's account of his having to nip out at night and play gigs in dodgy clubs to support his ludicrous income- although I fathom he would have still played regardless of the same. His stay in Port Harcourt was nonetheless fruitful the highlight being his playing with Dizzy Gillespie on his tour of Nigeria in 1989. For those who aren't aware- Dizzy Gillespie's famous African hat was gotten during this trip where he was made an Honourary Chief.
On his music , he started At 17 as a singer in a local rock band, Eternal Wealth in Volos. He picked up the guitar in Germany heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix and other rock guitar greats. He made friends with the great Japanese Guitarist Eric Ishihara, a friendship that survives till date. He has also played/guested with some of the following- Steel Pulse, Billy Taylor, Frank Foster (Duke Ellington Orchestra), Ira Coleman (Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock), The Jazzmobile Ensemble, the great Tito Puente and the equally late and great- Art Blakey. Not a bad cv for a skinny hippy Phycist from Volos Greece. In Nigeria apart from Fela Kuti, he's also played with Femi Kuti, Victor Uwaifo and Tee Mac-(top Photo) probably better known as composer of the 70's Disco hit "Fly Robin fly" for his then band- Silver Convention http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM72iWami9M
In 2004, he formed his second band Sotiris which was renamed Salvador Sango, his pseudonym. The band toured Europe in 2005 and I'm still slightly peeved that the bugger didn't tell me, although he turned it round on me by saying that I never answered my phone and that i didn't call him on my last trip to Nigeria (sound familiar?)- touche!
He recently obtained the franchise for a Fizzy Drink- La Carsera for Nigeria, recently sold or transferred to a Multinational company- which he co-owned with his brother Dimitris, who now heads Coca-Cola in Bosnia(?!) and now is solely occupied with his music- what a life.
We had a massive belly laugh on our telephone conversation last friday, in which we reminisced on some of his caustic-tongued gems- a couple being - i. On a drive back from a gig, he asked me to slow the f--k down "my Guitar is twice the cost of your diseased metal scrapheap!" ii. On Nigerian Policemen- "The worst kind of human being is a policeman and the complete gutterscum of Policemen is a Nigerian Policeman"
Salute to my brother Soto