Before Mahjun (of which Souffle Continu reissued, in 2016, the two albums released on Saravah), there was… Maajun. Five musicians (Jean-Pierre Arnoux, Cyril and Jean-Louis Lefebvre, Alain Roux and Roger Scaglia) and three times as many instruments at the service of an electric-poetic guerrilla group moulded from folk and blues. The group’s unique album, “Vivre la Mort du Vieux Monde” evokes an (imaginary) association of Frank Zappa and Jacques Higelin, of Sonny Sharrock and the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Under these conditions, Long Live Death!
“The most French of all the French groups, determined to take Maurice Chevalier’s place in American hearts.” This was how Rock&Folk presented Mahjun in 1977. So be it. But when “Vivre la Mort du Vieux Monde”, was issued, it was 1971, and the name, though the same group, was still spelled Maajun. So, let’s look back at the story.
At the end of the sixties, five blues fans decided to form a French group ready to break down the barriers: Jean-Pierre Arnoux (drums, vibraphone, saxophone), Cyril Lefebvre (guitar, organ), Jean-Louis Lefebvre (bass, violin, guitar, vocals), Alain Roux (saxophone, flute, harmonica, vocals) and Roger Scaglia (guitar, vocals). This was Maajun, and Vivre la mort du vieux monde would be their only album, but which would (nevertheless) be followed by those of Mahjun created later by Lefebvre (Jean-Louis) and Arnoux.
Recorded for the Vogue label, “Vivre la Mort du Vieux Monde” would disturb a number of people. This is mostly due to the lyrics, many of which were written by Gérald Escot-Bocanegra, who, while summoning the spirit of Lautréamont and Rimbaud, turned the Maajun musicians on to rock and free jazz. Add a bit of politics into the mix, and the release of the album was delayed for several months. But then, wasn’t it worth waiting for?
Because “Vivre la Mort du Vieux Monde”, a real concept-album, is an important and iconoclastic statement made directly in the face of (francophone) dreamers of all countries. Over heavy guitar riffs, psychedelic interludes or fantasy-fuelled digressions, Maajun built mazes on the advice of alchemists known only to themselves before heading off on a long march on the “cracking walls”. It was an ambitious project, but Maajun could handle it, going so far as to proclaim: “Tomorrow will be a huge party!” But as we can see “tomorrow”, is now!