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Iam Tongi gets warm welcome returning to Hawaii for 'American Idol' performance

The high school student’s rendition of Spawnbreezie’s “Don’t Let Go” stole the show. 
Iam Tongi
Iam Tongi sang a rendition of Spawnbreezie's "Don't Let Go."YouTube
/ Source: TODAY

When “American Idol” contestant Iam Tongi returned home to Hawaii, he was embraced with open arms.

On the April 16 episode, the top 26 contestants of Season 21 performed at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa. But it was the high school student’s rendition of Spawnbreezie’s “Don’t Let Go” that stole the show. 

The Kahuku, Hawaii, native captivated the audience’s attention when he hit the stage for his homecoming. Viewers, including his own friends and family, swayed back and forth while listening to the smooth island tune. And judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan were all smiles, too. 

But the 18-year-old is also resonating with those outside of his homeland. Since the YouTube video of his performance was posted, it’s amassed 1.3 million views and counting.

“This wasn’t just another audition performance anymore. This sounded like his own real concert. EXCELLENT,” one user wrote.

“Without a doubt we are witnessing a rising Super-Star,” another used chimed in. 

“Not only rooting for him all the way, but i’m loving the Pacific Island representation! Him singing this song is so special for our Pacific Island artists!” another added.

Tongi is the first Hawaiian contestant to make it this far in the competition.

After his performance on the show of the Simon & Garfunkel classic “The Sound of Silence,” there was not a dry eye in the crowd. The YouTube video has garnered over 2 million views since being shared on April 10.

But the fan-favorite’s journey to “American Idol” has not been an easy one. Alongside his performance, the show aired an emotional video of Tongi’s mother explaining that his father became sick a couple of years ago and “realized his days were limited.”

“When Iam’s dad passed away, he didn’t want to sing anymore. He kept saying that every time he sings, he can hear his dad back him up,” Tongi’s mom said. “After talking with him, (I shared) with him that it’s a beautiful thing that he could hear his dad.”

While Tongi strummed an acoustic guitar, a teary-eyed Perry turned to her co-judges and said, “This is what this show is about.”