RIGA - Russian pop, with its flashy performers and saccharine lyrics, is certainly an acquired taste.
Its grandiose style has duly earnt Russian pop a reputation as more kitsch than good taste.
But for fans of a more light hearted music variety, Latvia's annual Russian pop party extravaganza might just be the experience you've been waiting for.
Latvia's upcoming New Wave festival promises a line-up of Russian pop stars to rival a Moscow discotheque.
The annual international contest of young singers, held in Latvia's resort seaside town of Jurmala, has become a significant event on the summer festival circuit.
The brainchild of legendary composers Igor Krutoy and Raimonds Pauls, New Wave was first held in 2003 with the aim of unearthing new talent, not only in Russia, but across the world.
Following last year's semi-final in Moscow, a selection round was held in Riga, which attracted talented performers from Canada, Sweden, Germany, Czech, Greece, Poland, U.K., and Kenya.
After long deliberations, judges selected 17 finalists from 14 countries to compete for the prize purse of $140,000.
However, the event's undeniable popularity in Russia and CIS countries has continued to ensure the dominance of performers from this part of the world.
The event, which brings together established stars with aspiring future talents, attracts a fashionable audience of thousands to Jurmala and a global television audience of millions.
During Soviet times Jurmala was popular among elder and middle-aged people from the CIS countries, with many attracted by the town's special charm, its spacious beaches and relaxation possibilities.
Today increasing numbers of tourists continue to flock to Jurmala's seaside shores, with many holiday makers timing their visit each year specifically for the international song contest.
The popularity of the event and the annual influx of tourists strains Jurmala's accommodation capabilities to the limits.
LOVE OF SONG
Modern Russian pop music owes much to romance, as well as to Russian people's love of song in general.
Today Russian showbiz has become a powerful structure comprising of several major recording companies, two large-scale music TV channels and established system of promotion and distribution.
The fall of the Iron Curtain gave Russian language pop music access to the world music market.
However, the penetration of English language pop music worldwide has hampered the success of Russian performers on the world stage.
The exception was cute pseudo lesbian duo T.A.T.U whose catchy numbers climbed up the international pop charts.
No doubt the up and coming stars at this year's New Wave contest will be hoping the exposure could translate into international success.
Among this year's hopefuls on the line-up are Vladislav Levitskiy of Ukraine, Sondoro Sandhy of Indonesia, Maks Loren of Belarus, Nurzhan Kermenbaev of Kazakhstan, Aisha of Latvia and Gu Liya of China.
New Wave 2009, which runs from July 28 until August 3 will be opened by 80s American pop sensation Roxette.
Gala concerts throughout the event will be staged at the Dzintari concert hall.
More information can be found at www.newwavestars.com