Bruddah IZ, Forever in Our Hearts

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Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Bruddah IZ, Forever in Our Hearts

Bruddah IZ was one of Hawaii’s most influential and famous musicians. Many Hawaii visitors are familiar with his beautiful “Over the Rainbow / Wonderful World,” but there is far more to this beloved icon than this one popular song. 

Israel Kamakawiwoʻole

Bruddah Iz (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole) was a Native Hawaiian who embraced music from an early age and emerged during the Hawaiian Renaissance, which was a 1970s cultural movement that brought a resurgence in traditional Hawaiian language, music and values. 

He released numerous albums with his band Mākaha Sons of Niʻihau before beginning his solo career in the early 1990s. His sweet, soulful voice and passionate lyrics helped propel him to fame. And as he rose in popularity across the world, he also brought even more Hawaiian music into the spotlight. 

Through his four solo albums, he explored Hawaiian Identity, politics, the beauty of the islands, and his own journey through life. 

His first album, Facing Future (1993), remains the best-selling Hawaiian album of all time. 

Bruddah Iz died in 1997 at the age of 38. He was the first musician allowed to lay in state in the Hawaii state capitol, and mourners filled the street to honor the iconic figure who was gone before his time. 

Hawaii’s Sculpture of Bruddah IZ

The memory of Bruddah IZ will forever live on in the hearts of Hawaii and beyond. And in the Waianae community, his memory lives on through an impressive bronze sculpture.

The 200-pound bronze bust of the revered singer looks out toward the ocean, with the Waianae mountain range in the backdrop. It sits in the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on the west side of Oahu. Hundreds of people gathered in 2003 during the sculpture’s dedication. 

Sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer and the widow of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Marlene, also attended, placing lei on the bronze figure.

Fans from all over the world generously chipped in to create the statue. Their donations went even further than imagined, as the monies funded scholarships for talented music students headed to college. The “Friends of Bruddah IZ” also bought 15 handmade ukuleles and donated them to the Nanakuli Boys & Girls Club.

The fish hook hanging from his neck represents the magic hook that Maui, the “Hawaiian Sup’pa Man,” used to pull up the Hawaiian Islands, as conveyed through one of Iz’s hit songs. Sadly, it was stolen not too long after the dedication. Jan-Michelle re-sculpted a hook and welded it back on so that it couldn’t be removed.

I read an online forum in which visitors were surprised to learn about the sculpture’s existence. Some added it to their list of things to see while in the islands. Maybe you should too.

The bronze sculpture is about an hour and a half drive from Waikiki, but if you’re staying at one of the west-side hotels, it’s a much shorter drive. Make it part of your drive along the Waianae Coast.

Many pay tribute to the singer/songwriter with a lei or two. But you don’t have to; just visiting Bruddah IZ’s sculpture is more than enough to help his memory live on.

BRUDDAH IZ SCULPTURE • Waianae Neighborhood Community Center, Waianae, HI 96792