1st Pacific Islander ‘American Idol’ Winner Iam Tongi Inspires Hawaiians

1st Pacific Islander ‘American Idol’ Winner Iam Tongi Inspires Hawaiians

Iam Tongi, a high school student whose guitar broke midway through the season, became the first Hawaiian and Pacific Islander to win “American Idol,” shining a spotlight on island culture and sparking a wave of local celebrations.

“Hawaii is a tight-knit community, and so when we see someone trying to make it, a lot of us all cheer in the privacy of our living rooms, making as much noise as possible,” said Roman De Peralta, leader. and songwriter for local Hawaiian band Kolohe Kai, whose music Tongi played on the Season 21 finale. “He just struck a chord with not just Hawaii, but the world.”

Her victory, punctuated by local concerts and school celebrations, is especially rare, given that country singers typically dominate “Idol” and other reality singing competition shows. A fan favourite, the 18-year-old from Kahuku, Hawaii, crossed genres with her final performances to win over Christian music singer Megan Danielle.

The songs Tongi sang on Sunday night were dedicated to her late father, who died of kidney failure months before Tongi auditioned for the show. He covered “Making Memories of Us” by country music artist and former “Idol” judge Keith Urban. He revisited James Blunt’s “Monsters,” which he sang for his viral audition, this time dueting with the song’s British pop singer. And he performed his original song “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a stripped-down ballad about heartbreak. “Gone but your love / It’s all I have left / I’ll stand / You’ll stay in my arms,” ​​Tongi sang.

Callbacks from Tongi’s father have followed him all season. He promised his father before he died that he would always play the guitar he had given him. Mid-season, the instrument broke and Tongi had to sing Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” without it.

“It was almost like a sign my dad was giving me that I could do it myself,” Tongi later said on “Live With Kelly and Mark.”

Most of the songs Tongi took to the stage with were songs he grew up singing with his father, and he said he still hears his father’s harmonies in his head.

The winner of “American Idol” is no surprise. There is a reason for this.

Tongi stayed true to her Hawaiian roots on Sunday performing “Cool Down” by Kolohe Kai, a 2009 reggae hit that’s popular in the islands. De Peralta said he felt honored and humbled when he saw it.

“I am BEYOND excited right now!” De Peralta wrote alongside a video he posted on Instagram.

The high schooler received praise from the Hawaiian government, including Governor Josh Green (D), who posted a selfie with the musician and wrote in a statement:

“He represented our State with grace, humility and of course, his fantastic talent. Congratulations to Iam, all of his ‘ohana and his beautiful hometown of Kahuku.”

“American Idol” premiered in 2002 and remains one of the most popular shows in the country, although its ratings have declined. About 5.6 million viewers tuned in to last year’s finale, according to Deadline. Notes for Sunday’s broadcast were not immediately available.

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