Air guitar championship

Friday, August 23, 2019 - 3:51pm


The Air Guitar World Championship takes place Friday in Oulu, Finland. How did that become a thing? The World's Diego Lopez has the story.


Marco Werman: If you happen to be in Oulu in northern Finland today, you've got a few activities to choose from. You can visit their World-Class Science Museum, go to Nallikarii, the Beach. It is still summer after all. But I think you'd be best advised to check out the annual Air Guitar World Championship in Oulu. It cranks up there today.

The World's Diego Lopez has the story.

Lopez: It's got a lot of what you'd expect: wild jumping, energetic strumming, and hands racing up and down an invisible guitar neck. That's Eric “Mean Malin” shredding to the song, TNT Diet by Michael Monroe. Malin is an air guitar world champion himself.

Malin: It's this amazing thing that's gone from a private thing that people do in their bedrooms to a huge piece of one-minute performance art set to music. The Air Guitar World Championships is the biggest adrenalin rush of all time.

Lopez: Malin says it's a mind-blowing type of performance.

Malin: So, you are backstage and they're about to throw you out there in front of 9000 people outside in this town square and the people are going nuts. They have a huge stage set up with lights going everywhere and smoke and big TV screens and the whole thing is live-streamed on the internet.

Lopez: So how did air guitar become a global thing in the first place?

McDaniel: It started out as kind of a somewhat local competition, although they had competitors from other countries. So they kind of jokingly called it the World Air Guitar Championships.

Lopez: Bird McDaniel is an ethnomusicologist at Northeastern University. He served as a judge at this year's National Air Guitar Championship here in the US.

McDaniel: The competition has gradually gained momentum. There was a publication of a documentary called Air Guitar Nation, and there was also a memoir that an American air guitarist wrote, called “To Air Is Human,” and those really catalyzed the US air guitar scene. But they also kind of gave credibility to this international practice.

Lopez: And while all this sounds like just a good time, the organizers of the air guitar championships want it to be about more than just rocking out.

McDaniel: This year, they have a symposium for climate change and world peace, for example, and they're making it part of the official weekend's activities for air guitarists from all over the world, to emphasize the importance of climate change concerns on a global perspective.