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Kon Kan

During the late '80s and early '90s, Canadian act Kon Kan scored several hits and a Juno Award with a distinctive, sample-heavy brand of dance-pop which drew from synth pop, Hi-NRG, and disco. Their 1989 debut, Move to Move, featured their first and biggest hit, "I Beg Your Pardon," and was followed by two efforts in the '90s, Syntonic and the more rock-influenced Vida!... Kon Kan was founded in Toronto in 1988 by producer Barry Harris (vocals, keys, guitar). He took the project's name from the phrase "Can Con" (short for "Canadian Content"), which is the name of a rule that enforces Canadian radio station to play at least 30-percent of its music from musicians from Canada. Kon Kan's debut album, Move to Move, was released by Atlantic in 1989. Most of the songs were sung by session vocalist Kevin Wynne, and Jon Lind, Dennis Matkosky, and Mark Goldenberg co-produced the material in Los Angeles. The album's lead single, "I Beg Your Pardon," which sampled Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden" (among numerous other sources), reached number 15 in the U.S. and the Top Ten in several other countries. The song eventually won a Juno for Best Dance Recording. Harris and Wynne followed it up with a few more singles, including "Harry Houdini" and "Puss N' Boots/These Boots (Are Made for Walkin')," the latter of which featured samples from both Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song" and Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking." Wynne left Kon Kan shortly thereafter, but Harris retained the Kon Kan name and carried on, taking over lead vocal duties for sophomore album Syntonic, which appeared in 1990. The album featured songs co-written or co-produced by Paul Robb (Information Society), Bob Mitchell (Cheap Trick's "The Flame"), and John Luongo (Blancmange). Two singles, "Liberty!" and "(Could've Said) I Told You So," were minor hits in Canada, but it wasn't as successful as the debut, and Atlantic dropped the group. They resurfaced on A&M subsidiary Hypnotic Records in 1993 with Vida!..., which sported a more guitar-driven alternative sound and a David Bowie cover ("Moonage Daydream"). The album was only released in Canada, and "Sinful Wishes" was its only charting single. Harris re-recorded "I Beg Your Pardon" without its samples; the retitled single, "Pardon Me/Rose Garden," was released along with several remixes in 1994. The song was perennially revived with additional remixes in the following decades. Following the dissolution of Kon Kan, Harris refocused on dance music, forming the house duo Top Kat (with Terry Kelly) and the Euro-dance trio Outta Control (featuring Rachid Wehbi and vocalist Kimberley Wetmore), as well as the one-off project Killer Bunnies (with Wehbi). He also released numerous house records under his own name, including collaborations with Pepper Mashay for Nervous Records and Tommy Boy. His most prolific project was Thunderpuss, a duo with Chris Cox which produced over 100 remixes, covers, and original tracks between 1997 and 2003. They were responsible for the Billboard Dance chart-topping remixes of Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," as well as mixes for other stars like Britney Spears, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Lopez. Harris formed a rock band called Sick Seconds, which also featured Anton Cook, who played drums on Vida!... They released a self-titled album in 2013. Kon Kan became active on social media that year. In 2022, Harris announced that he had given Wynne his blessing to use the Kon Kan name for a U.S. tour, but that he would not be participating, and the group would not be recording new music.
© Greg Prato & Paul Simpson /TiVo


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