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Last Updated: 10th March
February 17th, 2006
Salvador Sango rocks Nigeria with afro salsa tunes

Entertainment, dance and music were at their best at the Goethe Institut as the afro salsa playing band, Salvador Sango thrilled audience to different modern and classical tunes of afro salsa that is currently making waves in some parts of Europe.
Enam Obiosio and FUNKE ADETUTU

It’s hard to classify Salvador Sango’s music. It’s a musical species that represents today’s reality of the world where people and cultures are no longer as far apart as they used to be. The group consists of young men who are mostly Nigerians and are not deterred by the trans-cultural differences as they sing flawlessly in Latin. They are a group of people who have digested the big truth that the world is one irrespective of colour, race or nationality. The members come from places as far as Europe and Africa but those who see them on and offstage would think that they were all born in the same country and that they’ve been playing together all their lives. They handle salsa, flamenco and jazz with the same ease with which they handle Yoruba folklore, juju music and gospel. However, that’s not the result of academic training or technical ability alone but rather the result of being able to identify completely and deeply with what they do. In fact, it is hard sometimes to draw the dividing line between these styles when they play. With the exception of their band leader, the rest have one thing in common: they all learnt music in the church.

But they all share two things: their love for music and the dream of spreading their musical and spiritual message all over the world.

Sotiris Papadopoulos, the leader of the band was born on September 17, 1956 in Volos, Greece and has been living in Nigeria for 17 years. He is a physicist turned to musician and holds a doctorate degree in atomic physics from Oxford having studied in Germany, England and the United State of America but he left the academic and research world for the great love of his life, music. He showed an interest in music at a comparatively late age, when at 17, he started singing rock for his first local band, Eternal Wealth. After highschool he left Greece for Germany to study Physics. There he picked up the guitar and started imitating  Jimi Hendrix and other rock guitar greats. During his years in Germany he developed a passion for Latin and Spanish music and played with various local bands including a commercial one that made waves in the local entertainment scene, caribao.

In 1980, Papadopoulos travelled to Nigeria where he played with Fela Kuti and developed a keen interest in African rhythm. In the same year, he became friends with guitarist Paul Shigihara, Charlie Mariano, WDR big band, who brought him to the reality of serious self study.

Physics brought him to New York where he had the opportunity to be close to the jazz scene and learn from people like Frank Foster, Billy Taylor and Ted Dunbar at Jazz mobile in Harlem. After his studies and various jobs in Europe and Asia the dream of music brought him to Africa when he came to Nigeria in 1988. In the years that followed he played with numerous bands and local stars as a leader and as a sideman and guest including Dizzy Gillespie in Port Harcourt in 1989, as well as the well known band, Spice. In 2004 he formed Sotiris which later became Salvador Sango, his artistic pseudonym.

The evening saw the performance of soul lifting and irresistible afro salsa tunes which forced many to their feet. The view at the Lagoon front of the Goethe Institut and the cool breeze added credence to the somewhat humid and hot weather characteristic of the harmattan season.

Salvador’s presentations were heavily laden with Yoruba afro tunes with a mixture of afro Caribbean tunes. The first musical presentation was rendered in Yoruba language by one of the band back up boys, Deji Adetayo. The sonorous music bothers on a nameless male character that squandered the money he was suppose to use for education to purchase a bicycle. Also included in this presentation is another song that revolves around an appeal to the elders by the members of the band stating their reassurance of divine protection they enjoy from the gods as a result of their belief in them whenever they are dealt with at any function.

With the change in tune and the performance of afro salsa many members of the audience, mostly, white couples stood up to dance to the irresistible jazz tunes with occasional interlude of Spanish afro salsa.

Tee Mac, also added colour to the night with the tunes that reeled out of his clarinet.

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