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Photo Caption: Sean Panikkar reads the popular Toronto-based English monthly, The Sri Lankan Anchorman.

TORONTO - In a no-holds-barred exclusive interview with The Sri Lankan Anchorman, American tenor of Sri Lankan heritage, Sean Panikkar blasted judge Howie Mandel for his negative remarks at the finals of America's Got Talent.

Panikkar and his tenor group Forte, stormed their way into the finals at the packed-to-capacity Radio City Music Hall in New York which was watched by millions around the globe on September 17.

With a choice of six finalists - country singer Jimmy Rose, opera trio FORTE, comedian Taylor Williamson, dancer Kinechi Ebina, magician Collins Key and singer Cami Bradley, America chose Kinechi Ebina as the victor on September 18. Kinechi took home a whopping $1million prize and an opportunity to headline a show in Las Vegas.

“Overall my experience with America's Got Talent (AGT) was really positive. When Josh Page and Fernando Varela invited me to join their group, I thought we might get through a round or two, but I never imagined we would be finalists. To even reach the finals and have the support of the voters was really encouraging for us. We also felt strongly about our final performances, but Howie Mandel decided to spend the entire show ranting about how singing wasn't a talent,” Panikkar told The Sri Lankan Anchorman shortly after the show.

“That was disheartening for us and also a ridiculous assertion on his part. The beauty of Americas Got Talent is that everybody has a different talent. Opera singers spend years training, so to have that so easily dismissed was odd, especially in light of the praise he heaped on us in the rounds leading up to the finale,” Panikkar said.

“Often times comedians have teams of writers and dancers have choreographers. Howie’s assertion was that we simply had to sing a song that was put in front of us. It could be argued that many comedians simply memorize jokes that are put in front of us or dancers memorize choreography. We could have easily performed an original song, but that was something that Howie had argued against in earlier rounds with other acts.”

“In the end we were finalists on the top rated show in the US when we didn't even expect to get through the quarterfinals.” 

As soon as FORTE we were eliminated during the results show they were greeted by executives from Columbia Records.

“We literally walked off the stage and they were there while the show was still going on.” “We had impressed them enough, through the course of the season, that they were interested in signing us and the proposal they had was incredibly ambitious. We essentially took one day off following the show and immediately went to the studio to record vocals for an album.”

“The plan was to try and release a quality product as soon as possible to ride the momentum of AGT and I think it is going to work.”

“ is already taking pre-orders for our self- titled album and our CD will be released on November 12,” Panikkar told The Anchorman.

Before that they will be releasing a single of Caruso which comes out on September 30 and will be available on i-tunes and Amazon as a digital download.

“The three of us had a great time recording this album and it was so great to be able to sing full songs instead of the 90 second arrangements we were required to do on AGT.” 

“After the disappointment of finishing fourth, it was so rejuvenating for us to simply focus on the music and not worry about judges,” comments, Panikkar added. 

Meanwhile, the good news continued beyond their record deal as Forte were invited to headline a show at The Tropicana Las Vegas for a special New Year's residency from December 28-30 and they are headlining at New York's famed Carnegie Hall for a special event benefitting Kate Winslet's Golden Hat charity which supports people dealing with autism.

“We are really excited to be able to use music to raise awareness and support for a wonderful cause, Panikkar said.

“Through all of this I have been blown away by the support we have received.”

“In particular the Sri Lankan Canadian population has really rallied around Forte and that is due in large part to the coverage that The Sri Lankan Anchorman provided for us,” an emotionally charged Panikkar said.

“I am so grateful to have the support of the Sri Lankan community and I hope that everybody will share in the success of the group. None of this would be possible without viewers watching and voting us into the finals. Our group literally formed on TV and the television audience watched us grow in real time. In many ways the public is a huge part of our success because without their support, we never would have had the opportunity to do all of the wonderful things that are happening now,” Panikkar added.

Source The SriLankan Anchorman

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