Why Hawaii Loves Iam Tongi, American Idol Winner

Iam Tongi American Idol
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > Why Hawaii Loves Iam Tongi, American Idol Winner

Though Iam Tongi’s American Idol season is fading into the past, he remains a beloved musician throughout Hawaii and beyond. Let’s take a look at the Hawaiian musician’s rise to fame and what he’s up to today.

Iam Tong’s American Idol Season

I’ve never been much of an American Idol fan. Not even a little. But the soaring success of Hawaii contestant Iam Tongi, or William Tongi, changed that. 

Tongi began winning America’s hearts when he appeared in Season 21 of Idol, and his thrilling win became the pride of Hawaii. 

It’s genuinely thrilling to see someone with such deep Hawaii roots receive international exposure and acclaim for his powerful performances 

Tongi’s American Idol audition went viral: a stirring, emotional rendition of “Monsters” by James Blunt. Fighting back tears while dedicating the song to his recently passed father, Tongi composed himself and delivered a performance so compelling that it had the judges in tears. 

The audition was remarkable for the courage Tongi showed, and astonishing for the artistry of his musicianship and the unmistakable power of his voice. His love for family informs everything he does and believes in. He’s real.

Hawaii Celebrates Our Local Heroes

Those of us in Hawaii closely follow the success of our island neighbors on the national and international stage. Athletes who make it to the big leagues inspire new generations. And actors who make it to the big (and little) screen prove to Hawaii’s young people that hard work and perseverance can help them reach their goals, no matter how lofty they might be.

Where is Iam Tongi Today?

After Tongi’s American Idol win, the new star shone in his new fame. Today, he is touring the country, bringing the sounds and spirit of Hawaiian music to venues across America. 

If you want to see Iam perform, follow him on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with his touring schedule. 

Aloha Bruce (of Hawaii Aloha Travel) recently reminded me that Ian Tongi is on the cusp of untold fame and fortune. Certainly, he has the talent to sell a zillion records (or streams, or whatever), and to fill seats in stadiums around the world.

Iam Tongi and Bruddah Iz

Hawaii music fans will no doubt see the similarities between American Idol’s Tongi and Israel “Bruddah Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole. They’re both big fellas. They are both wildly talented singer/songwriters. 

Braddah Iz became an overnight success with his rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World.” That recording session is legendary: a middle-of-the-night phone call requesting studio time, and a 15-minute one-take performance that is now indelibly part of popular music culture. 

Movies, television shows, weddings, celebrations of life…Bruddah Iz has gone on to join the choir – invisible but still serenading us with his otherworldly voice.

Tongi’s audition for American Idol and subsequent performances have gone viral all over the world. Bruddah Iz and his “Over the Rainbow ” went viral before the phenomenon had a name.

While the similarities between Tongi and Bruddah Iz are obvious, there is one key difference between the two homegrown talents. 

Iam Tongi is just 18 years old and already has millions of views and followers across social media. Bruddah Iz didn’t enjoy such wildly popular positive exposure at such an early age. He was a blue-collar, working musician for many years with the Sons of Makaha before recording that fateful, wistful rendition of “Over the Rainbow”.

As Bruce pointed out to me, with the advantages of appearing on American Idol, a massive social media following, and a talent that comes along once in a generation, Tongi could very well become the next Bruno Mars: a blindingly brilliant performer whose voice and story require an international audience.

Iam Tongi American Idol Winner

Tongi’s Rise on American Idol and in Hawaii’s Hearts

There’s no telling the amazing career that Iam Tongi has ahead of him after his American Idol win. But we are already incredibly proud of young Iam Tongi for what he has achieved so far. 

As for his fans in Hawaii, he’s already won us over. He had us (well, me, anyway) before he sang his first note in that now-famous American Idol audition.

All that’s left for us to do is support Iam Tongi as he continues to bring Hawaii’s music to the world, and to support his young career as it develops. He’s one of us.