Iam Tongi performs during the season 21 finale of “American Idol.” During the season and on the final night when he was crowned, Tongi sang a song written by Anapogi Fau of Independence, known as Spawnbreezie.
A Kansas City-area songwriter can now boast that one of his creations made Katy Perry swoon.
On his way to being crowned the new “American Idol” last week, high school student Iam Tongi went home to Hawaii and sang for a local crowd. Judges Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan were also in attendance.
Tongi performed “Don’t Let Go,” written by Independence songwriter and musician Anapogi Fau, who interprets what he calls “island hip-hop” as “Spawnbreezie.”
Click to resize
The song opens with this bittersweet plea:
“Take my hand and don’t let go. I’m addicted to your love.
“But if you must know, how’s it going my love, darling, stay close.”
Tongi was barely able to get the first two lines out when Richie smiled, clapped his hands, and let out a whoop. Perry, dreamy-eyed, sitting next to her, looked like she was falling for her.
“I just love it!” Richie yelled.
When Tongi reached the chorus, all three judges jumped to their feet.
Fau posted a video of the song, from his third solo album “Dear Billy,” on YouTube in 2012. It became a favorite of his fans.
Newcomers have found him in recent weeks thanks to “American Idol,” where Tongi performed him last month on that episode in Hawaii and again to celebrate his victory.
As of Friday afternoon, the video had close to 15 million page views. (The Star couldn’t catch up with the busy musician this week.)
The name Spawnbreezie appeared on CNN and NBC’s “Today” program reports to British tabloids crediting him as the composer.
Fau is well known in the Kansas City Samoan/Polynesian community, which hosts the 21st annual Island Festival on Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm at 114 W. Maple Ave. in Independence.
After more than 15 years as a solo artist, his fan base spans the globe; so do his tour dates.
Fans who followed Tongi on “American Idol” appreciated that he performed songs by other Pacific Island artists when, as one noted on Facebook, it might have been “safer” to perform more mainstream music.
“But he chose to bring his community with him,” wrote a fan named Kalani Tonga. “This is what seems to embody the idea that when one of us wins, we all win. What a nice guy.”
Fau posted a video on Facebook congratulating the young “American Idol” champion and thanking him “for what he does for all of us.”
“Very well deserved”, Fau said. “It was amazing to see and witness this part of your musical adventure. I am extremely humbled and humbled, but even more proud to have seen him not only get a record in particular, but also represent our people on such an important platform as he has.”
This story was originally published May 26, 2023 2:47 PM.