The Tonga Sisters singing group features sisters Lexi, Tiueti, Lela, Siva, and Nini Tonga, who live on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. They have three younger siblings in their family (only one is a boy) and are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their ancestry is from the country of Tonga.
When they were old enough to read sheet music, Tiueti, Lela, and Siva sang together at baptisms and in sacrament meetings. Soon Nini, the youngest, and Lexi, the oldest, joined. The Tonga Sisters have performed on "Nickelodeon", "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", and "Fresh TV" among many venues. They also competed on "America’s Most Musical Families".
The sisters are close in age and close in proximity, consequently they are good friends who have the usual moments of not getting along. “Considering the fact that we all have really big personalities, [the music] helps us to stay really close.”
Their mother grounds them while they navigate the world of celebrity. Her motto is “be in the world, but not of the world.” Tiueti says, “[My mom] always said [the answer is] service. She says ‘If you’re anxiously engaged in the work of the Lord, then you won’t be “of the world.”’”
The sisters see their music as a way to share their testimonies. They used to only sing Church songs but recently have added secular songs with good messages.
They also stay true to the standards they have been taught by wearing clothing that is appropriate both on and off the stage. They have to be careful about what they say, wear, and post, because their actions are representing them as disciples of Jesus Christ. Their good examples and willingness to talk about their beliefs make them witnesses of Christ everywhere they go.
The sisters pray before each performance, giving them an extra boost of confidence as they fight stage fright and nerves. Siva adds that they now pray after performances as well to thank Heavenly Father for their talents and the opportunity to use music to bless others.
Praying before performances was what began the tradition of also knowing what songs to sing for others. Lexi explains that each audience has a specific need, and by praying to know what music to select prior to a performance, they are able to best minister to those present. They compare it to praying in preparation for a sacrament talk. There have even been times when one of the sisters receives a prompting about singing a different song shortly before singing their musical number.
“Sometimes we come with a song prepared already [that we prayed about],” Lela says. “But when I’m sitting there, listening to a talk, sometimes I turn to my sisters and tell them, ‘We’re gonna sing this song, I have a feeling that we should sing this song.’ . . . And they have the same song [in their head]. It’s reassurance that it’s the perfect song to sing at that time. I think [those are] some of my favorite moments of us singing together, is when we get promptings from the Holy Ghost of what song is appropriate for the event that we’re at.”
- Another memorable time in the sisters’ past was when their silent prayers were answered—but only after they did what the Lord wanted them to do first. They had a fireside on the other side of the island, and their 15-passenger van didn’t have enough gas in it to make the long, windy trek. Money was tight, and this performance was an act of service they volunteered to provide. Tiueti recalls being nervous about the situation but that her mom never showed a hint of anxiety about the deficient level of gas. She told them they were going to go sing, and if that meant they would have to walk the rest of the way there when the gas ran out, then it would work out. “She had faith that we would be able to make it because we were on the Lord’s errand.”
- After the girls sang and the fireside ended, a person from the congregation came up to their mother and handed her some money. “[He said,] ‘I don't know why, but I just had the impression to give this to you. Thank you guys so much for coming,’” Lela says, remembering the moment clearly. The individual had no idea that they needed the money to buy gas to make the long drive home. “That’s just one of the blessings that we get for singing and being obedient, not only to the Lord but to our mom.”
The sisters have aspirations for college and careers, but are taking this opportunity to sing if it is the Lord’s will. “He is the reason why we sing,” Lela says.