Soria's sole territory


POSTED: Friday, June 12, 2009

It's “;another year, another anniversary,”; for Harry B. Soria Jr. and “;Territorial Airwaves,”; but this one is one of those milestones that people pay attention to: Today's broadcast celebrates his show's 30th anniversary.





        “;Territorial Airwaves”; with Harry B. Soria Jr.

» Where: KKNE AM 940


» When: Noon today; repeats at 5 p.m. Sunday


» Note: Episode plays on demand through July 3 at hawaiian105.com and am940hawaii.com.




“;I must being doing something right,”; he said with a chuckle during a recent telephone interview.

Soria, aka “;Harry B,”; is a master of understatement. The show has survived three changes in radio station call letters (from KCCN to KINE to KKNE), three changes in broadcast frequency (from 1420 AM to 105.1 FM to 940 AM), different time slots and several changes of station ownership. In 2006 it became a syndicated feature that is rebroadcast on demand via KINE and AM 940's Web sites.

Soria launched “;Territorial Airwaves”; in 1979 with the Honolulu Skylark as his co-host. After seven years on the air, “;Territorial Boy”; Keaumiki Akui took over the co-host spot. For the last decade Soria has worked solo.

The music of the territorial era (1900-1959) was not nearly as popular in 1979 as it had been worldwide during the first half of the 20th century. “;Hawaii Calls”; had gone off the air several years earlier, and the grass-roots music of the Hawaiian renaissance was booming alongside the English-language, “;contemporary local”; music of Cecilio & Kapono, Kalapana and Summer.

Things have changed since 1979, and Soria said one of the most fulfilling things for him over the past 30 years was seeing that music embraced by a new generation of island entertainers.

“;I get a particular joy when a younger artist or group will take a recording they've heard me play and they will rearrange it into their own expression, but they'll bring back this long-lost song,”; he said. “;That gives me a real joy because the song's not going to be lost—buried in the grooves of a 78 (rpm record), for example—never to be heard by anybody in this century.

“;At times nobody wanted to even acknowledge hapa-haole music, and now you see it being embraced. Some young groups are actually putting hapa-haole songs on their CDs.”;

SO ARE some of the older groups. Na Leo, which always had hapa-haole elements in much of its music, has moved more towards hapa haole in recent years. The Makaha Sons released an entire album of hapa-haole songs, the Brothers Cazimero have often embraced their hapa-haole roots and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom's first big local hit, “;Haleiwa Hula,”; was a hapa-haole classic written by her grandmother.

Soria describes the resurgence of appreciation for hapa-haole music as a significant shift from the days when some self-appointed enforcers of cultural correctness dismissed the music as second rate. Some mocked the uniforms that were worn by the major acts of the day, while others defined the entire genre as “;colonialist,”; and in doing so equated the work of native Hawaiian composers like Andy Cummings and Randy Oness with songs written by Tin Pan Alley songwriters who'd never been west of New Jersey.

“;At various times we got kinda less respect because we represented the 'old stuff,' and everything that was happening during the (Hawaiian) Renaissance was about 'Right now. We're creating. This is our music. We're not really plugged into the past that much. We want to go forward,'”; said Soria. “;Now the Renaissance music is 'oldies but goodies,' too. ... A lot of it had a time stamp to it, a trendiness, and so I see that through all these twists and turns, and as the decades go by, people are actually embracing hapa haole, for example.”;

One factor in the enduring popularity of songs like “;Waikiki,”; written by Cummings while he was on a mainland tour, or the compositions of R. Alex Anderson, are the songs' “;timeless lyrics.”;

“;People started recognizing the power of the lyrics,”; Soria said. “;You can rearrange them, and you can come up with some different chords and different key, (or use) different instrumentation, but the lyrics are the basis of the songs and they still stand.”;

Soria credits Cox Radio staffer Robz Yamane with being the “;guru”; responsible for expanding the show's online presence to three on-demand programs.

“;The show that airs (Friday) can be heard for three more weeks, which is nice because it allows the global audience to continue to grow,”; he said. “;When it first happened, I wasn't so sure about all this because live radio was the expression I'd always done, and I couldn't visualize anything beyond that.

“;But now I realize that we've gotten a listenership that truly is global.”;