DJ Sun from Houston
Photo: Amil Velazquez
The Houston DJ Sun will perform a live show on July 23 at the University of Houston’s Moores Opera House which will also serve as the launch party for his latest album, “Loveletter,” which will be released the same day. You could also call it a 30th anniversary party, as this year marks the veteran DJ and producer’s 30th year turning records professionally.
“I think I started in the summer of 1992, throwing a beach party that I was invited to,” recalls Sun (first name: Andre Sam-Sin). “And then it didn’t stop there. I remember being booked after that and being asked to do some business projects.
During those early years, Sun worked to find his calling as a DJ. His travels to New York, his attendance at club nights such as the Soul Kitchen funk and soul night (also turns 30 this weekend), began to influence the music he was spinning regularly. “I was playing a lot of music that was definitely from England, from New York – old school hip-hop, jazz-influenced stuff,” he says.
From then on, Sun became a figurehead in the Houston DJ community. Whether it’s doing various residencies at clubs and other venues around town, hosting the now-defunct KPFT radio show “Soular Grooves” every Saturday night, releasing his own mixes, EPs and full albums on CD and vinyl, Sun is an “elder statesman” – as he calls himself – in this record game.
When: 8 p.m. on July 23
Where: Moores Opera House, University of Houston, 3333 Cullen Blvd.
Details: $5; 713-743-3388; djsunmusic.com
“Loveletter” was born as he was looking to do something after his 2016 album “Qingxi,” a project in which mixed race Sam-Sin ventured to China to explore the Chinese side of his roots. “After going on such a personal journey,” he says. “I was a bit stuck as to what I’m going to do next.”
Just as he did in his youth, he returned to the Big Apple to find inspiration. “I heard sound, I heard music. I had just seen a lot of things and heard a lot of sounds, which kind of opened my mind. The music was very inspired by love, because of that era,” he says.
Spending time in Red Hook also took him back to when he was growing up in Rotterdam, where he was born. As he says of his hometown, “I only have love for this town.”
According to Sun, “Loveletter” is “a memoir of love,” inspired by French New Wave and 60s soul, combining lo-fi aesthetics and lush textures and sounds. He also says the album has been ready since 2020. “COVID has been very unfortunate, of course,” he says. “But it gave us time to take a break and to be able to conceptualize how to present the album.”
One idea that emerged was to play the whole album live, to create with musicians the beats and sounds that he was making in the studio. “I was just thinking about this and wanted to perform what I composed in a drum machine and have it performed by world-class musicians in a live setting for the first time.”
So he teamed up with conductor Marlon Chen, who is the principal conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra in Manila and the Aperio Music of the Americas ensemble in Houston. “André is awesome, he’s the most calm and focused cat I know,” says Chen. “We sat in his studio for weeks discussing how to translate the album’s electronic sounds into a live orchestra. And, then, we coined a new term – ‘untranslatable’ – all the things that we couldn’t translate but would have to be done to keep his original vision of a soundscape.
Joining Sun, Chen and The Loveletter Orchestra will be Chris Dave & the Drumheadz, Fat Tony, Tim Ruiz and others. Sun’s artist/performer/daughter Khaili Sam-Sin will recite romantic prose alongside the music. A pre-show reception is held at 6:30 p.m., featuring music from Oakland’s DJ Platurn and artwork from visual artist DUAL. (Half of the proceeds from DUAL’s artwork sales are donated to Austin DJ Chicken George, who is battling cancer.)
With times being both stressful and hateful, Sun thinks the album and the series are indispensable right now.
“In a very general sense, you can also say that today the world needs a love letter,” says Sun. “And I’m also writing a love letter to Houston. There’s nothing super literal about it, but it’s really the feeling that’s portrayed. And that’s going to be portrayed in this show and, I think , also through music.
Craig Lindsey is a Houston-based writer.