Air Guitar World Championships: The Art of Faking Talent

Air Guitar World Championships

Thousands of music fans will gather at Oulu, Finland on August 21-23 to see grown-ups pretend to play hard rock at the Air Guitar World Championships. Finalists from all around the globe – with names like Airistotle, Seven Seas, Dana-Saurus Rex and The Devil’s Niece – will compete to see who is the most convincing at wiggling their fingers in the air to the tune of the greatest songs ever. Besides a full year of bragging rights, winners will take home prizes like actual musical equipment, some possibly donated by renowned working musicians like Queen’s Brian May.

Air Guitar World Championships: A Brief History

Justin "Nordic Thunder" Howard en los Air Guitar World Championships (Foto: Juuso Haarala/Air Guitar World Championships)
Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard. (Source: Juuso Haarala / Air Guitar World Championships.)

Oulu, a cultural hub and one of the preferred residential areas for Finnish musicians, is hardly known outside of the country. The Air Guitar World Championship, an August tradition for the past 20 years, might possibly be its biggest export. The competition came from the mind of Jukka Takalo, an Swedish-born musician from Finland. A real musician, mind you, one who sings, plays instruments, composes songs and has played in bands.

The first Air Guitar World Championship took place in 1996 as a tongue-in-cheek alternative to the Oulu Music Video Festival. Oikku Ylinen, a local, won the premiere edition of the event with his rendition of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water and no-budget pyrotecnics. Ever since, contestants have represented various ages, genders, nationalities and tastes. All united by their love of music and their willingness to make fools of themselves.

Why Air Guitar Matters

Genevieve "The Phoenix" LeBlanc en los Air Guitar World Championships (Foto: Juuso Haarala/Air Guitar World Championships)
Genevieve “The Phoenix” LeBlanc. (Source: Juuso Haarala / Air Guitar World Championships.)

The committee behind the Air Guitar World Championships is fully aware of the silliness behind their premise. Rather than play it cool, they embrace the campiness wholeheartedly. The alleged goal behind this competition is the most altruistic of all: world peace. As in, when you’re playing air guitar, you can’t be getting into any worse trouble and after you’re done, misbehavior hardly seems like a better option. “Make air, not war,” is the name of the game.

It’s utterly ridiculous, but is it any worse than karaoke, lip sync battles, a bad cover band or something you might find on a Netflix game show? Like pro wrestlers willing to break bones to put on a show, these air guitarrists essentially practice performance art, goofing off like untalented schmucks in order to spread joy. You won’t regret attending an Air Guitar World Championship. Should you be there, you might even witness, even for just for a brief moment, how a diverse selection of common people become rock gods.

Find more information on the Air Guitar World Championships on their official website. Unable to attend? Watch the event live here.

(Source: Air Guitar World Championships / YouTube)