‘American Idol’ Winner Iam Tongi Shares Emotional Musical Tribute To Maui Wildfire Victims

The singer/songwriter explained that this news “hits harder than I can express.”


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

August 14, 2023


1:28 pm

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Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy Instagram

In lieu of the devastating wildfires that recently took on the island of Maui, American Idol winner and Hawaii native Iam Tongi is using his presence on social media to express his sorrowful emotions and encourage others to do what they can to help those affected. 

In his most recent video, Tongi admits that he took the past few days to collect his thoughts and determine the best way he can offer some help from afar. The singer was born and raised in Kahuku, located near Honolulu, but he and his family have been living in Washington State since 2020. Even though he is no longer a Hawaii resident, the singer-songwriter still holds great pride in his island roots. 

“I just wanted to come on here because these past three days I’ve been wondering what I should do and what I can do to help with Maui, and I just wanted to encourage everyone to just go out there and whatever you can do to help Maui, just go and help out the best you think you can,” Tongi stated in the clip. 

Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy Instagram
Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy Instagram

Tongi continued to share his thoughts in the caption and admitted that hearing the news of all the destruction and lives lost in Maui “hits harder” than he can express.  

“I have thought and rethought about ways I could help the people of Maui because I feel incapable seeing people donating so much money that I don’t have and talking with family members and watching videos of people helping each other has made me realize that there’s so much more ways to help,” he began.

The budding artist decided that one way he could lend a helping hand is by using his musical gift to hopefully provide some brightness in this dark time. Holding his ukulele close, Tongi began strumming the delicate strings and singing his stunning rendition of “Starting All Over Again” by the cousin duo Mel & Tim. He explained that he was dedicating this song to “everyone who lost their homes and family members” as a way to show his “aloha” and his deepest condolences to Maui. 

“I love you Maui and you’re always in my prayers,” he wrote in conclusion.

Tongi put his emotions on display as he strummed the ukulele while pouring his heart out through the powerful lyrics of the 1972 tune that appeared as the title track to the duo’s second LP. 

“Starting all over again is gonna be rough, so rough / But we’re gonna make it (oh yeah) / Starting all over as friends is gonna be tough, on us / But we gotta face it / We lost what we had, that’s what hurt us so bad (oh yeah) / It set us back a thousand years / But we’re gonna make it up, though I know it’s gonna be rough / To erase all the hurt and tears / Starting all over again is gonna be hard / But I pray that the love will help us make it (yeah) / Starting all over again is gonna be slow / But we, we both know that we can make it,” Tongi sings. 

Just as he showed with this acoustic delivery, there are plenty of ways to get involved in this dire cause. 

“If you’re donating money, any amount would help as long we try to make sure it’s going to the right hands,” he continued. “if you can’t donate money, we can look into other ways of donating wether it be clothing, food, time, etc.”

In the days since the fast-moving fire destroyed the historic coastal town of Lahaina, CBS reported that the death toll in Hawaii continues to rise. As of Sunday, August 13, at least 96 deaths have been confirmed, however, officials are expecting this number to increase even more with the ongoing recovery search through hundreds of homes and burned-out vehicles.

The outlet has claimed this to be the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since it became a state in 1959. 

To learn more about how to donate, visit HERE.

Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

Iam Tongi rose to fame on American Idol season 21 where he was crowned winner of the competition. Throughout his time on the show, Tongi stunned viewers and the judges alike with his emotional performances and incredible vocal talents.

He released his debut single, “I’ll Be Seeing You” in the final stages of the competition.

Solely penned by Season 18 Idol alum Francisco Martin, “I’ll Be Seeing You” serves as a tribute to a loved one who passed away. For Tongi, that person is his father, who died just months before he auditioned for American Idol

YouTube video

The lyrics find Tongi confessing that he’ll never forget “all your wits” and “all of the laughs.” While he admits he’s “lonely,” he has “no fear” because he finds comfort in the fact that he’ll see him again one day.     

“’Cause I’ll be seeing you / Seeing you / Wherever I go / And I’ll be / Be with you / Be with you / Wherever I’ll go,” Tongi sings on the chorus.

Iam Tongi is currently in the midst of his first-ever tour.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.