Dr. Sócrates – The Story
Going down to the basement it was noise, the feeling of sweat and hardly some light. Bodies and music, very loud music. I was upstairs, sitting by candlelight, the doorman. Sometime before a Brazilian guy did the job, somebody told me, but I didn’t care. It was in the legendary Freitagsbar in the district of Mitte, later on one of the many victims of the unstoppable gentrification that Berlin has experienced since the turn of the century. Before that, in another of those illegal bars that opened on different days of the week in many of the districts of the city centre, some Donnerstagsbar in Prenzlauer-Berg, my career as dj began together with other 3 enthusiasts. Mixing global beats, reggae and a friend doing the MC’s job. It was fun and a lot of partying. Djing till late and working early in the morning. The Kaffee Burger was also on the list. But, somehow, it didn’t last. …
On one night in the Freitagsbar a tall guy approached me. He was carrying a heavy case. In the inside hundreds of minutes of music. I don’t remember which language he spoke. But, since I couldn’t speak German at the time, I guess, it could have been Spanish, Portuguese or Italian… or some mix of all of them. ‘I did the job before you’, he told me. I looked at him still sitting in my place full of candles. ‘Oh I see’, I replied. He was that Brazilian guy I heard about. He was Dj Garrincha. He went straight downstairs and soon after the music of Jorge Ben crushed the dancefloor. It was clear to me that the real thing was happening downstairs. If that Brazilian guy was able of djing from coming as a doorman, I couldn’t be less. So I began to mix some beats late at night too. Had the Brazilian guy nothing better to do on Fridays? We used to listen to the music the other was playing. We learnt a good deal of things. A mutual respect began to grow. Some call it friendship. Then it came the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige causing the largest environmental disaster in the history of Spain and one of the worst in Europe. The oil spill polluted almost the entire Galician coastline, in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. As a Galician I felt compelled to do something. Among other things, we collected money to help those who were tireless working in the cleanup. In the soliparties that I organized, Dj Garrincha was in command of the dancefloor. It was a calculated move, politically motivated.
The days of the Freitagsbar were numbered. Berlin was changing. Gradually, the charm that the city gained during the 1990s was losing ground in the face of new speculative capitals arriving from who knows where. After the Freitagsbar Dj Garrincha and I did some gigs together, especially in the Kaffee Burger, a couple of times with dj friends and some live concerts and performances too. We sought for a form of properly channelling the way how we understood and still understand music. A particular mix of African and Latin-American (including Brazil) beats. The music was hardly original, although we always had our own discoveries, so to speak. Original was, is the way in which we bring everything together. Grooves, that mainstream djs don’t dare to jumble in fear that they will piss off the dancefloor, became soul mates in our playlists. There is an underground counter-beat going on. One that fraternizes instead of pulling apart.
I focused on my academic career becoming a doctor, a bona fide PhD or Doctor of Philosophy. One day, mixing in the Kaffee Burger, a smiling Garrincha suggested that as a doctor I should take the name of the legendary Sócrates. Sócrates, who was a doctor in medicine, was not only one of the best Brazilian football players of all time, but also the revolutionary leader of Democracia Corinthiana, Portuguese for Corinthians’ Democracy. The Corinthians’ Democracy was an ideological-political revolutionary movement that demonstrated through an innovative, democratic-based way of managing the business of the football club Corinthians of São Paulo how popular democracy works in face of a brutal military dictatorship. In addition to it, Sócrates had been my childhood hero during the 1982 World Cup held in Spain. The Brazilian team was the greatest and Sócrates the coolest football player ever. In the dj-pool Garrincha and Sócrates did that, what the real Garrincha and Sócrates could have never done in the football pitch: namely, they play together. Dj Dr. Sócrates was born.
I followed Garrincha to some of the funkiest parties in town. Tropical Diaspora was in the air, although I wasn’t aware of it at that time. Garrincha became involved in Yaam, organizing a tropical party with live acts. Tropical Diaspora was taking form. Although I wasn’t part of the project at the start, we often met and discussed everything related to it. There were questions popping up over and over again: Our African roots, the native traditions, a deep repulsion of any form of Eurocentrism… and Fela Kuti. One night Garrincha called me to play in Yaam. I brought my records. It rocked! The rest is history.
Since then I have been the resident dj at Tropical Diaspora together with Dj Garrincha, its initiator and architect.