Interview: DJ Sun on Exploring His Chinese Roots
Houston Press Hall of Famer DJ Sun’s creative edge is steeped in his dynamic, multicultural roots. Always with an eye on the future, his aural palette reaches across funk, soul, jazz, disco, and other genres. In collaboration with Asia Society, he will premiere Sun's Resolution, a performance that combines new music and stunning imagery, on October 3.
This multi-media production responds to DJ Sun’s (Andre Sam-Sin) recent journey to China to explore his family history — specifically that of his great, great grandfather. He spoke to Asia Society Texas Center about his journey and what he's learned ahead of his upcoming performance.
What inspired you to learn more about your roots?
DJ Sun: I was seven years old when I first realized the different surname (Sam-Sin) that I possessed. It led me discover that my great-great-grandfather, Soong Sam Sin, had left China during wartime to seek a better life in Suriname. Discovering my Chinese origin was an interesting mind-twist, and my facination about my ancestry grew the more I learned of Suriname's history and how the country became so diversified through colonization.
What was the most interesting part of the journey?
DJ Sun: It was researching the exact places of origin that most Surinamese Chinese hailed from, which is near Qingxi (with the help of professors Paul Brendan Tjon Sie Fat and William Man A Hing) and then visiting the area. We were advised to find the ancient Hakka towers in order to get closer to the more historical parts of the town. Getting there and then discovering burial urns within structures that paid homage to ancestors of the area's inhabitants. Another amazing event was the encounter with a beekeeper who invited into his bee farm and offered us a friendly tea ceremony once he gained an understanding of why we were there.
What did you learn that you did not already know?
DJ Sun: The entire trip and the research leading up to it was a great learning experience. What I gained through research was how much turmoil existed around the time of my ancestor’s departure (1858): The Opium War, famine, drought, tribal wars, chaos from a disorganized empire.
What can we expect on October 3?
DJ Sun: An audio visual experience that will tell the story of my ancestor’s journey (mostly through the music) and interweaved with experiences from my trip, through the visuals captured. Read descriptions from the performance's seven "chapters" here.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
DJ Sun: It may be an obvious statement to make: standing on the grounds that my ancestors traversed was truly a spiritual experience and something that I would like to repeat many times on my own. The beekeeper gave a me a wonderful gift- two jars of honey, which I spent the rest of my time consuming as I considered it for my purposes to be “sacred” honey.