DJ's chatter is all in Apache
The Arizona Republic
Sept 15, 2003
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
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
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
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
Reach Ruelas at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8473.