Every August, a festival called the Air Guitar World Championships takes place in a city called Oulu in Finland, gathering participants from all over the world. Air guitar is a performance in which one uses their body to mimic playing a guitar, and the competition is known for determining the most beautifully expressive air guitarist. In this article, I would like to introduce this unique Finnish competition, the Air Guitar World Championships, where no instruments appear on stage.
Air Guitar World Championships held in Finland
The Air Guitar World Championships is an annual competition held in Finland since 1996, where participants compete with their air guitar skills. The venue is located in Oulu, a city in the northern part of Finland near the Arctic Circle. Oulu is a city of about 200,000 people, known for its developed IT industry.
Air guitar is an entertainment form that uses gestures to make it seem like you are actually playing a guitar. Many people might have played air guitar along to their favorite music, using gestures to match the tune.
The Air Guitar World Championships is not a competition for skill in playing a musical instrument like other music competitions. Instead, participants perform on stage using skillful finger movements, expressive facial expressions, and their whole body in sync with the background music. In the end, judges evaluate each person’s air guitar performance and choose one person with the most outstanding expression.
In fact, the Air Guitar World Championships is widely recognized as an international competition. In addition to Finland, national competitions are held in countries such as the United States, France, Thailand, and Japan to determine who will participate in the finals.
World peace as the competition’s concept
The Air Guitar World Championships is not just a competition to decide the best air guitarist. The competition’s concept is actually aimed at world peace. The grand purpose is to solve various global problems, such as war and global warming, by having people worldwide enjoy air guitar.
The competition’s slogan is “Make Air Not War,” which means that instead of taking up arms in war, they want to make everyone smile with the universally enjoyable air guitar.
How the Air Guitar World Champion is determined
To participate in the Air Guitar World Championships, you must first win a preliminary local qualifying round or a national competition held in each country and be selected as a representative player. To host a national competition in your country, you must be a member of the World Air Guitar Association.
Representatives from each country compete in the main event, the Air Guitar World Championships, held in Finland in August, and the ultimate world champion is determined. The competition consists of two rounds.
In the first round, each participant performs an air guitar to a song they have prepared, and the judges narrow down the top 10 based on their evaluations. In the final round, they perform an improvised air guitar to a song provided by the competition.
Air guitar judging is done by a panel of five judges who give scores out of 6 points, and the competitors vie for the total score. To ensure neutrality, the scores of three judges, excluding the highest and lowest scores, are totaled. The performance time given for air guitar is only one minute. In that short time, participants must use their entire body to play the air guitar and stir the emotions of the judges.
The world champion title is awarded to the performer with the most outstanding performance, based on a comprehensive evaluation of expression, skillful movements, and entertainment value.
Japanese participants make a big splash in the competition
Japanese air guitarists also participate in the Air Guitar World Championships and showcase their fantastic air guitar performances at the venue. In 2014 and 2018, a female air guitarist, Nanami Nagura, won the championship. In 2004, Takeshi Kongochi became the first Japanese participant and achieved impressive 4th place finishes in both that year and the following year.
In addition, the comedian Yosuke Ochi from Dainoji participated and won the championships in both 2006 and 2007. Interestingly, he had no prior guitar experience and couldn’t play an actual guitar at all when he participated and won.
The Air Guitar World Championships values expression and enthusiasm more than guitar techniques as a performer.
The Air Guitar World Championships held in Finland is a slightly unusual festival where no instruments appear on stage, even though it is a competition for musical performances. However, it boasts a high profile as an international competition, and every year, many participants express their confidence through air guitar at this entertainment event.