RIGA - Well, that's it. Last week, on Sunday August 2, perhaps the most famous musical contest in the post-Soviet states 'New Wave-2009' named its roster of winners and closed the festival with a big gala concert.
This year, 16 young performers representing 12 countries took part in the competition. For the first time in its history, the competition awarded two first-place prizes to the singers: Sandhy Sondoro from Indonesia and Jamala from Ukraine. The jury couldn't decide on which was better, so therefore quickly came up with additional funds for the prizes: they awarded victory to both singers and each was granted prize money of 50,000 euros.
Second place with a prize of 30,000 euros was won by the charming Italian singer, Antonello Carozza. Third place and the 20,000 euro prize went to Russian performer Mark Yusim.
The Muse of the festival, Alla Pugachova, gave her preferences to another Ukrainian representative, Mila Nytych. She was awarded with the Gold Star award and prize money of 50,000 U.S. dollars.
The only representative of the Baltic countries, Latvia's own Aisha, was given the prize of the spectators' sympathies.
All jury members and participants received their own prizes, too - diamond jewelry encrusted with the New Wave logo.
Despite numerous gossip in the press about bad ticket sales, the contest at the Dzintari Concert Hall in the beach resort of Jurmala was fully packed every evening. Of course, this is evidence that the New Wave competition presents quite a striking cultural event. Resounding in the media, of deep interest by millions of TV viewers, the attentiveness to the contestants' performances, the variety of guest 'stars' all suggest that the New Wave event is now a famous summer tradition.
During the contest days the phrase 'for the first time' was heard from the stage many times, as this year's competition featured a variety of new activities, which, as the organizers hope and expect, will become tradition in the future.
First of all, there was a ceremony of creating a sculptural bas-relief 'New Wave 2009.' In addition to the organizers and participants, attendees to the ceremony included Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Latvia, Alexander Veshnyakov, representatives of the embassies of China and Belarus, the executive director of Jurmala, Valdis Vitolins, and many others. The Representative of the Embassy of China, Yang Jianzhong, noted that this year China is participating for the first time, and it most likely won't be the last. "We believe that in the future the project will be popular in our country. The most important thing is that a contestant from China will help our compatriots to learn about Latvia and Jurmala. For us, this is a step to strengthen relations with Latvia, Russia and other countries," said Yang Jianzhong.
A cast bronze plate has been installed next to Dzintari Concert Hall.
During the contest, composer and one of the event organizers Igor Krutoy was awarded the 'Order For Merits for the Fatherland,' by the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. The Russian President also awarded maestro Raimonds Pauls with the 'International Public Order Golden Falcon.'
Among the festival guests were the former Ukrainian leader, Leonid Kuchma, First Lady of Uzbekistan Tatiana Karimova with her daughter, and First Lady of Kazakhstan, Sarah Nazarbayeva, also with her daughter, then Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs, and president of Alfa-Bank, Pyotr Aven, among many others.
Also a first for the festival was its New Wave Fashion Week, which was supported by World Fashion Channel. Thus the scope of the event is widening, from just a music competition, to now include the fashion event.
Traditionally, the budget for this biggest cultural event in Jurmala was kept undisclosed, but it was clear that at least for this year, it was smaller than in previous years.
Guests of the festival, except for Alla Pugachova, skipped the only five-star hotel in Jurmala, the Baltic Beach Hotel, and stayed in other hotels in Jurmala and Riga. The Muse of the festival settled in the Presidential Suite at Baltic Beach, together with Maxim Galkin.
The official transportation was also changed - from the elite Mercedes and Hummer of previous events to the more affordable Audi brand.
"Yes, we were cutting down the expenses," admitted General Director of the New Wave Contest, Alexander Rumyantsev.
Night concerts on Dzintari beach had been abandoned in favor of Riga's Club 'Godvil.' On the beach, there were up to 10,000 guests, but in the club it just 2,000. The cost of the beach stage, for rent, security, etc., was 10 times higher than for the club rent," Rumyantsev added.
Despite the reduced budget, all the events that were planned took place: a parade of the participants in retro-cars, the bronze Star Alley in Dzintari, Mr. and Ms. Sexy New Wave 2009 show, as well as many after-parties.
Organizers claim that the 'Wave' 'lived,' 'lives' and 'will live on' in Jurmala. They are not even thinking about moving the festival on to any other city, or country. "Many who saw the broadcast, the helicopter surveying the coast and then come to Jurmala, ask 'Is it really the place where all this is happening?' The same deceptive sense as with the size of San Remo," said New Wave jury co-chairman Igor Krutoy. "But I am still confident that there is no better contest atmosphere than here in Jurmala. Moreover, we do not interfere with the political relations between Latvia and Russia," he added.