Jannis Zotos studies classical guitar at the "Musikhochschule Hanns Eisler" in Berlin from 1984 to 1989. His teacher is Prof. Pauli. Between 1984 and 1987 he is a regular member of the group "percussion & strings", together with Hermann Naehring (percussion), Dietrich Petzold (violin), Jens Naumilkat (violoncello), Woka Musick (contrabass) and various others. From 1987 to 1989 he is sideman of the German Singer-Songwriter Barbara Thalheim.
In 1980, during a performance of the Oratorium "Canto General" (Theodorakis/Neruda) in Berlin, Jannis Zotos and the famous Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis meet for the first time. From that day on the bond between them shall last. In 1981 and 1982 performances of the Oratorium "Axion esti" (Theodorakis/Elytis) directed by the composer himself lead to the production of a recording (Eterna). In 1987 Zotos orchestrates the production "Gisela May singt Theodorakis" (Amiga). From 1990 on Zotos conducts Theodorakis' orchestra, writes arrangements and joins tours through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Norway, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Canada and of course Greece. Zotos also works with Maria Farantouri, George Dalara, Dimitra Galani, Maria Dimitriadi, Eli Paspala and Petros Pandis. In 1990/91 he orchestrates the music for the CD Theodorakis sings Theodorakis (Intuition), in 1995 Birthday Concert - Mikis Theodorakis & Maria Farantouri (Tropical Music) and in 1997 Together-Mikis Theodorakis & Sülfü Livaneli (BMG). Between 1997 and 2004 he is on tour with Maria Farantouri in Europe and the United States.
Jannis Zotos composes scores for motion picures and theater productions: "Diese Landschaft ist hart wie das Schweigen" (film about the Greek poet Jannis Ritsos), directed by Joachim Tschirner; Sunny Point, directed by Wolf Vogel; "Antigone", written by Sophokles, Neues Theater Halle, directed by Alexander Stillmark; Der Auftrag written by Heiner Mueller, directed by Thomas Bischoff; "Faust I", written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, directed by Thomas Bischoff and Der Sondeur, written by Jannis Ritsos, directed by Thomas Bischoff. In 1998 the CD Sonne und Zeit by Maria Farantouri and Rainer Kirchmann (Lyra) that was in part arranged by Zotos is released.
In 1990 Jannis Zotos founds Zotos Kompania togeher with his brother Thanassis. The group is deeply devoted to Rembetiko Music and traditional Asia Minor and Greek music. He spends more time playing the Bouzouki and takes Oud lessons from the Syrian Oud master Farhan Sabah, while Zotos Kompania develops its very own rembetico style. The Greek TV station ERT produces a documentary about Zotos Kompania touring Greece. In 1995 the CD "Deviation - Zotos Kompania live in Concert" (Cooleur) and in 2004 "Lethargia" (anjoke) are released. In 2001 Zotos Kompania is invited to the Folkfestival Gooik in Belgium and in 2004 to the Tanz- und Folkfestival Rudolstadt.
From 2002 on Jannis Zotos follows the tradition of other greek composers by setting to music the lyric poetry of their fellow countrymen. He rediscovers the lyricist Maria Polidouri (1902-1930) and sets to music eleven of her poems. He calls this cycle "EROS & THANATOS" and establishes its live performance together with Antonis Anissegos (piano), Michael Rodach (guitar), Maria Simoglou (vocal, oboe), Maria Anissegou (violoncello), Thanassis Zotos (percussion, vocals) and various others.
He starts setting to music the work of the masters Georgios Seferis, Odysseas Elytis and Thodoris Gonis.
Another epiphany for Jannis Zotos is the poet, rather than the composer Mikis Theodorakis. It is Theodorakis' early poetry that draws his attention. He starts setting it to music and his effort culminates in the production of the CD "Die leisen Stimmen der Erinnerung" (The gentle voices of retrospection). Deliberately Zotos includes pop and rock elements to his compositions. For the recording sessions he is joned by a number of excellent musicians: Reinmar Henschke (piano), Kai Brueckner (guitar), Thomy Jordy (bassguitar), Stefan Weeke (doublebass), Peter Michailow (drums) and Topo Gioia (percussion).