Greek-American Historical Museum of Washington State

Bouzouki At Its Best
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Bouzouki At Its Best

Takis Dotis
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takis todayHow better to keep community than through music and food.  Demetrios “Takis” Dotis, one of the true masters of the bouzouki and experienced restaurateur, does both.

Takis Dotis was born in Florina, a town in mountainous northwestern Greece.  He developed his passion for music by the age of 14 while working as a bus boy at nightclubs in Thessaloniki.  By 21 he had mastered the instrument he loved and became known as the first professional bouzouki musician from Florina.

He is also the first of his generation to perform with the legendary Rembetis at the historic nightclub Harama in Athens.  Dotis played there with the musicians he had idolized as a teenager: Vassilis Tsitsanis, Yannis Papaioanou, George Lafkas, Spiros Zagereos and legendary singers Stelios Kazantzides, Rita Sakelario and Beba Blanch.

Takis on the rightAlthough the musician’s kafenio (cafe) in Athens (near Omonia Square) no longer exists, that is where Takis would jam with rembetes Stratos Payioumtzis, Lucas Daralas (father of George Dalaras), Vassilis Tsitsanis and Manolis Angelopoulous.  The legacy of these remarkable musicians and composers lives on through the talent and training they left to Takis Dotis.

Before travelling to North America he also performed in Greek movies and Greek television via satellite Greek TV.

Once in North America he accompanied singer Haroula Lambraki in Boston and in Toronto performed takis in earlier dayswith the legendary singer Dimitris Mitropanos.  It was in Hawaii where restaurateur George Serpanos saw Takis performing at The Mad Greek and brought him to Seattle to play at his venue.

After many years of touring, he married Seattleite Vickie “Kiki” Panagiotopoulos, a third generation American-Greek.  Since moving to Seattle Taki has played for many different events other than the Greek nightclubs for which he was brought here.  He played for former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer’s ethnic picnics in the mid 1980s.  In 1988 he played for a Kitty Dukakis fundraiser for her husband’s run for President of the United States.  Since the 1980s Taki has played for festivals, church events, weddings, baptisms, and other occasions that have taken him to Alaska, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.  He has performed with the dance groups at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle and many weddings and baptisms in the Greater Seattle Greek community.

Despite Taki’s busy performance schedule he and Kiki have owned and operated five Seattle restaurants.  Taki’s Mad Greek is the fifth and has been serving excellent Greek food in Ballard for the last 20 years.  Before Taki’s Mad Greek they owned Taki’s Pizza and Pasta featuring Greco-Roman cuisine in Ballard and in downtown Seattle where they offered Greek style pizza, souvlaki and pasta.

takis at the Mad GreekIt is at Taki’s Mad Greek where he, Kiki and their two sons, Elias and George, can be together as a family.  Elias, the eldest son has followed in his father’s footsteps and is a musician in his own right, having won “Outstanding Bouzouki Soloist” at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in 2005 while in high school.  Elias has played with his father since the age of 13 accompanying him on the drums, guitar, keyboards as well as the bouzouki and baglama.

Every Saturday night at Taki’s Mad Greek they may be heard playing together.  Combine that and the offerings of a traditional Greek menu and you have community.

By John Nicon, March 2011
 
PHOTOS
1 Takis Dotis and his bouzouki
2 Takis and fellow musicians in Athens
3 Takis and his bouzouki
4 Takis pictured at Taki’s Mad Greek in Seattle
Photos 1, 2 and 3 from takismadgreek.com; Photo 4 by John Nicon
 
SOURCES
Oral interview by John and Joann Nicon, March 2011; Takis website, http://www.takisdotis.com