An Artist’s Perspective: ‘Let’s Take A Breath For A Better World’
In this op-ed plea for solidarity, German independent artist Leslie Mandoki calls on the music industry to come together during this time of global crisis to aid and support each other.
Guest post by Leslie Mandoki of ManDoki Soulmates
Morning has broken – with challenges that were predicted by many, but for which few were prepared. These challenges are in the process of defining who we are. My plea for solidarity amounts to an exhortation that we must become the group that stands together, making new and necessary connections in spite of any and all rifts and divisions. The fight against the pandemic and against divisions of all kinds etches in sharp relief where we stand.
We are learning day by day, again and again. Here in Germany, we have a history that teaches us what happens when racism horrifically poisons a society, killing a once vibrant and diverse culture by breaking the most fundamental rules of civilization. Of course, we have not learned this lesson perfectly. But even as I contemplate the bleakest aspects of today’s headlines, my heart is pushing me back toward an optimism rooted in one of our world’s great unifiers: music. But more on this later…
In the coronavirus isolation of my deserted recording studio, prior to the outbreak of protests across the world in response to the killing of George Floyd—before this I was thinking, hoping, that the enforced hiatus due to the virus could give us the space for new thinking and new policies to grow. Now I think we all realize: we don’t have time for that.
Right now, we must come together, making sure everyone feels they are being heard. We must bring the discourse of differing views no matter how extreme into the fold of the center of society, both to learn from them and to hold them to account.
Here in Germany, we are asking ourselves why so many people are expressing their fears in the form of conspiracy theories. We need to listen attentively to them in order to present a cogent and robust opposing point of view, based on respect and knowledge rather than anger and fear. The resilience of our pluralistic, democratic society will grow if we can endure a diversity of dissent in a way that escapes the filter bubbles and echo chambers of our current chaotic public discourse.
The massive threat to life as we know it from the coronavirus crisis, combined with all the other concurrent crises—world finance, refugee, globalization, fake news, conspiracy theories, as well as the sustained protests in the US and abroad—is what existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre would have called de trop, or “too much.” The only way out of this storm is through visionary leadership—political, cultural, and artistic. I call on my friends in prominent positions to lead from the front, not from behind political calculations based on polling, and to use these crises, together, as an opportunity to fight for unity and against division in society.
“Young, innovative artists at the beginning of their careers have been particularly hard-hit”
I am also making a special call to my peers in the music business to help our artist colleagues who are struggling for their existence. Young, innovative artists at the beginning of their careers have been particularly hard-hit. The paradigm shift in the recording industry has made breaking into the business harder than ever for artists who do not fit neatly into a mainstream commercial category. Culture needs diversity, and it would be a disaster if this diversity were thinned out by the corona crisis and only we established artists would be able to survive this time. Thus, colleagues of my generation and I need to hold the megaphone calling for support for these promising artists who are the future of the artistic soul of our society.
We cannot forget that the coronavirus crisis has provided a painfully hard-won opportunity to re-evaluate who and what is really, systemically important in our society, and to create new criteria for evaluating who creates added value, cohesion, and solidarity. At the same time, we must take a hard look at those who profit when our society is in crisis.
After the 2008 financial crisis, we failed to root out its causes. Because of this, uninhibited speculators have been able to shamelessly profit from the schadenfreude of short selling in this coronavirus crisis. Perhaps we can turn the corner from allowing financial markets to determine the course of events to having a community held together by humanity.
Especially in these times of rapid upheavals on many fronts, let us make sure that mindfulness triumphs over greed, and humanity over indifference. It is only with a unified effort that we can overcome these challenges, which are further exacerbated by the uncertainties of the current climate. Together, we must not only imagine, but create a new world of equality. So, let’s take a breath for a better world!
The Philosophy of Music
We need to bring our music back to socio-political relevance. We must once again sing and play together, against division and for cohesion. That is, and must be, the philosophy of our music. We musicians often think with our hearts. Our songs are created with an unwavering belief in the connecting power of music. Let’s change the world with our music! We are walking in the footsteps of the Woodstock generation—let us mount a new challenge to the world of similar proportions.
My most devout hope is that we will overcome these crises and live out our passion for life again with our audience. However, as I wrote years ago on our album Aquarelle, “I am not young enough to know everything.”
About Leslie Mandoki
Leslie Mandoki founded the concept group ManDoki Soulmates in 1992 with such acclaimed musicians as Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Bobby Kimball (Toto), Jack Bruce (Cream) and jazz-rock star Al Di Meola. In addition to these luminaries, for more than two decades the ManDoki Soulmates band has united legendary icons of Anglo-American rock and jazz-rock in a remarkable lineup including Ian Anderson, Jack Bruce, David Clayton-Thomas, Chaka Khan, Chris Thompson, Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather, Nick van Eede, Eric Burdon, Nik Kershaw, Greg Lake, Al di Meola, Randy and Michael Brecker, Cory Henry, Bill Evans, John Helliwell, Till Brönner, Klaus Doldinger, Mike Stern, Richard Bona, Anthony Jackson, Victor Bailey, Pino Palladino, Tony Carey, Mark Hart, Paul Carrack, Peter Frampton, and Jon Lord. The Soulmates concerts are marked by the musical synergy of all these musical icons united in one supergroup of Grammy award winning legends, where everyone’s egos come second. Original Soulmates compositions and collective improvisations on highest levels are just as much part of the concerts as world-renowned hits of the individual Soulmates members. “One stage – one band!”
With his Soulmates Leslie Mandoki raises Jazz-Rock back to socio-political relevance, to quote him in his own words: “Even in times of Twitter, social media and short news on the smartphone, when mental laziness often blocks the perception, music for us is still like a love letter to our audience – handwritten with ink on paper.” Mandoki recently released the new song “We Say, Thank You” to recognize those impacted by and on the frontlines of coronavirus.