I first heard about in Jean Bittard in 1988. Some cassette vendors in Bamako informed me that this was the cassette I should buy. A collector's item with cult status, I gathered.
"But who is this guy?", I asked. "He's the son of a Lebanese father and a Malian mother from Kayes", they told me. "He used to be with Sidi Yassa, the regional orchestra of Kayes. But after he made this cassette, he got big-headed, too good for this country. That's what got him killed". "Killed?", I asked. "Yes, he got into a fight and was stabbed to death".
I had no reason to doubt their word, until I stumbled upon a review of a concert by the deceased in Bamako in 2004. His resurrection was confirmed by another article, from which I gather that he's also made a new album. Apparently Jean Bittard has been pursuing another career.
Although his new album was released at least five years ago, I haven't heard or seen it (apart from the cover - on the right). He has taken the production in his own hands (which may be the reason for the poor distribution).
Here is the lp he recorded in Abidjan in 1982. My cassette copy is dated a year later, and is - as I have been able to ascertain since - a pirated copy of the lp with a Nigerian source.
KS 209 (new link Nov.10, 2012)
I recently found a videoclip of a slightly different version of the track "Mayomba". Bittard has also covered this track on his new album, although he seems to have changed the spelling to "Maillon Ba".