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Elton John World News: Elton rocks the Baltic Poles

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By George Matlock, Radio ORLA and EJW.com editor in chief

Sunday 3 September 2006 @ 23:00 - GMT

British rock star Elton John was the headline act alongside Britain's Katie Melua at the Sopot International Song Festival on September 2 in Poland. The festival has attracted top names over the years, including Greek crooner Demis Roussos - who offended Poles by wearing a Cossack coat on stage in 1979 when the event was briefly known as the Intervision Song Contest!

Private Polish TV station TVN invited Sir Elton to attend the event, one of the most prestigious interntaional events, compared by some to the Eurovision Song Contest.

The first Sopot festival was organised in 1961. Unlike the Eurovision Song Contest, the Sopot International Music Festival often changed its formulas to pick a winner and offered many different contests for its participants. The festival has always been open to non-European acts and countries like Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mongolia, as well as New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa among others have been represented in this event.

The contest lost popularity in Poland and abroad in the 1980s and even more in the 1990s.

Since 1999 there was no Grand Prix contest within the festival. TVP chose to invite well known artists instead including the likes of Whitney Houston or Ireland's The Corrs.

Melua, a British singer, was born in the Republic of Georgia and raised in Northern Ireland and England from the age of 9.

Her first album, Call Off the Search, was released in November 2003 and reached the top of the British album charts. Her second album, Piece by Piece, was released in September 2005 to commercial success.