Apache Chatter

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Mon Sep 15 20:03:41 UTC 2003

DJ's chatter is all in Apache

Sept. 15, 2003 12:00 AM

GLOBE It's Lyle Keoke Jr.'s birthday. His sister, Liz, has called up
Ricardo Sneezy's all-request Apache-language radio show to dedicate a
traditional powwow song to him. Sneezy swings the microphone toward him and
sends out the dedication in his native language. Then he hits a button on
the CD player, causing tribal drums and chants to blare out of the studio
speakers and transmit throughout the reservations of central Arizona.

 After about a minute, he fades it down. Sneezy knows both he and his
audience can only take so much powwow music. Plus, there are a lot of
requests to squeeze in. Next up, dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Lynell Davis
from their friends, is When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge. Hammond
organ chords replace the tom-toms.

 Sneezy, who was born, raised and still lives on the San Carlos
Reservation, took over the Indian Trails show on KRXS (97.3) about a year
ago. The previous host kept it traditional, lots of chants and
accordion-heavy chicken- scratch music. "Nobody went for it," Sneezy says.

 He opened up the phone lines and the music selection. He pulled a Fats
Domino song out of the station's oldies' collection. He brought in a Rod
Stewart CD from home, sparking a request for Maggie May.

 It quickly changed from a show of Native American music to a show of music
Native Americans like. That still includes some Native American artists
like the Fenders or Jim Felix. But more and more, the song list is not much
different from the mix of country and oldies the station plays the rest of
the day.

 Sneezy presses a green button and speaks in the alternately breathy and
guttural tongue of his native people. Phonetically, it sounds like this:
"Konahona nesta aia shikab. Loshe shiwino Ricardo Sneezy K-R-X-S F-M
ninety-seven-point-three, iko."

 The station serves Globe, but its 50,000-watt signal can be heard
throughout central Arizona, including most of the Phoenix area.

 Next, Sneezy moves onto a spot for Cobre Valley Motors. The copy is
written in English on the stand near his microphone. He translates it into
Apache as he reads it. There are apparently no Apache words for " '99
Mercury Grand Marquis," so he says that in English.

 Strands of requests

 Sneezy's wife, Victoria, and daughter, Rica, answer phones at a modular
desk outside the studio. They write requests on yellow Post-It notes and
bring them into the studio stuck end-to-end in long strands.

 Calls are mainly from the San Carlos Apache Tribe near Globe. But the show
also draws listeners from the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Gila
River Indian Community outside Scottsdale. They also get requests to and
from prisoners in Florence.

 Loretta is sending out Made in Japan by Buck Owens to the Ward Family.

 Born on the Bayou goes out to Girly and Rebecca. "It's their birthday,"
Sneezy says energetically, in English.

 There's a lot of love sent out. Some belated birthdays. And a few
memorials. Sneezy plays a mournful gospel song "in loving memory of Lesley
Aaron Nash."

 "I'll try to ease out of it with maybe some country Western music," he
says, off the air. "Or, I know what I can do." He swivels his chair and
flips through the stack of CDs behind him. He pulls out one with the
greatest hits of Louis Armstrong.

 He leans into the microphone hanging in front of him. He asks softly, in
Apache, if the parents out there have hugged their children or told them
they loved them. "If you want to see somebody's good smile, do it and try
it and you can get a good smile out of someone."

 He says the next song is dedicated to his own wife and daughter. He starts
the cascading strings of Armstrong's What a Wonderful World

 He hits the red button to take himself off the air and says, "All right,
let's go to Lamont's Mortuary." He flips to the commercial copy in his

 "That's one advertisement I don't like to do," he says. "Because Indians
when you talk about death, they think you're crazy." He tries to translate
the ad so it doesn't offend anybody. "But every time, I have a problem with
that. There's still a gray area there."

 On the air, he tells listeners "you never know when you're going to go.
You need to be prepared. You need to preplan and the people at Lamont
Mortuary . . . "

 Sneezy grew up with classic rock and oldies. He listens to Anne Murray and
jazz to mellow out after his job as director of surveillance at Apache Gold
casino, the largest private employer on the reservation.

 He initially turned down the job at KRXS because he weighed 400 pounds and
worried that he wouldn't be able to climb the stairs to reach the
second-floor studio. After a year going up and down the flights twice a
week, Sneezy says he has dropped 30 pounds.

 Halfway through the show, Sneezy has to cut off dedications. "Requests eko
stahalso ohiko. No more requests." His show runs two hours - 7 to 9 p.m. on
Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's popular enough that the station is considering
a third hour.

 Avoiding controversy

 Sneezy tries to avoid political songs by Native American artists and
avoids discussing controversial issues on the air.

 "I see a lot of people that just still - they have this cloud over their
head," he says. Some of that anger is from long-ago injustices, some from
current squabbles within the community. "I'm just trying to put good
thoughts into people's minds."

 The Bob Marley song is ending and it's time for the San Carlos Telecom
spot. He cues up Play that Funky Music, White Boy, and goes through the
requests. Justin wants to send Beast of Burden by the Rolling Stones to his
girlfriend and Ramus wants to dedicate Hard Luck Woman to his mother.

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