The evening sun envelops St. Stephen’s Basilica in garnet-red light, the walls of Budapest’s old town reflect the sound of wind instruments, electric guitars and two drums. Eight music legends are on stage, led by Soulmates band leader Leslie Mandoki. Due to the corona, the artist collective appears together on a large concert stage for the first time in two years. Star trumpeter Till Brönner has come from Berlin, jazz virtuoso Al Di Meola from the USA, as well as Grammy winner Randy Brecker. Here in Hungary, with an incidence of 5 and a vaccination rate of 57 percent, you can do what you put your heart and soul into – play live. In front of an audience. Thousands of Mandoki compatriots and tourists have come to experience the open air. The atmosphere on the square is not exuberant – rather, the audience listens reverently, almost in awe, trumpet volleys and guitar battles. You have respect for what is happening there on stage.
Leslie Mandoki and his soulmates celebrate life
Exactly 46 years ago to the day, Leslie Mandoki wandered several kilometers from his Hungarian homeland across the Slovenian-Austrian border. Finally back in the daylight, he hugged the first sign with a German word written on it – of all things, a transformer house with the inscription “Mortal Danger”. Today, he tells FOCUS Online, he likes to return to his hometown. “I am Hungarian, German, Berlin, Munich, Budapest”. He thinks like his friend Udo Lindenberg, celebrates the “colorful republic of Germany”. And he sings together with his soulmates about the times that shaped him: “As a refugee I came to Germany, to be free to disagree” . “
For three hours the Mandoki Soulmates present their rock-pop suite “Utopia for Realists: Hungarian Pictures” (advertisement), the corresponding album will be released on September 24th. An album with a very special message, as the Soulmates founder explains: “Together with artists from my student days, our Soulmates from New York, Los Angeles and London, together with free thinkers, opinion leaders, soulmates and creative designers from all areas of the Society we want to continue a tradition we have grown fond of: We want to give the ‘hot heart’ more space than the ‘cool head’ and celebrate the love of life and the unrestrained lust for existence. “
When night fell over Budapest, the Soulmates started their last act. Leslie Mandoki turns to his audience, his voice shaky at the beginning, thanks the crowd, enjoys the applause, deeply moved by the return to the stage. His soulmates – Al Di Meola, Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Bill Evans, Till Brönner, Tony Carey and Richard Bona – embrace each other, the music, the moment.
It won’t be their last concert together. Leslie Mandoki: “We musicians, we die without contact with the audience.”