The first ever Air Guitar World Championships were wondered and marvelled at. And for a reason! The contest held on the 30th of August 1996 in conjunction with the Oulu Music Video Festival was a kick-start to the spreading of the ideology of airstistic guitar playing. Right from the beginning of the Air Guitar World Championships the noble and lofty principles of world peace have reached a concrete level in the symbiotic unity of the contestants and the audience. That very last August Friday was the day from which there is no going back.
When planning the contest it was fiercely debated whether there was any sense in organising the championships. "Why not?" thought the frontman of the band Aknestik, Jukka Takalo, who was planning a street event for the Oulu Music Video Festival. At that time the Oulu culture elite considered competing in Air Guitar as "a kick on the head of such a noble cause", because a hobby so liberal and fun might have been ruined due to its sensitive and aireous nature.
The event was however organized in Rotuaari, a shopping street in Oulu, and it gathered a reasonable amount of people. There were two people in the first jury, the chief editor of the Oulu university student magazine, Merja Aakko, and the ever-so-fresh guitar virtuoso Juha Torvinen from the legendary Finnish band, Eppu Normaali. The chairman of the jury was, of course, Jukka Takalo.
On the compulsory round the contestants were to perform Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" which, even though being a routine rock song, fit the occasion like a fist in a rock critic's eye. The song separated the most glamorous performers amongst the dirt, and when the evening was approaching its end, Oikku Ylinen from Ilmajoki (Air River) was announced to be the first Air Guitar World Champion receiving a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.
Ever since the beginning the Championships were founded on a peace ideology: a person playing the Air Guitar cannot simultaneously be up to any mischief, and after playing mischief just does not seem like such a good idea anymore. The purpose was to play the Air Guitar all over the world simultaneously for peace, from the Great Wall of China via the Eiffel Tower to America. A bit like the eviction of space aliens was celebrated in the final scene of TV series V. This day still lies ahead of us, however perhaps not all that far away.
Air Guitar Emeritus Jukka Takalo reminiscing:
"In spring 1996 our group Aknestik once again arranged a birthday gig at Rauhala. For the gig we also produced a TV programme that was screened by a video projector between music videos. The TV programme included a news broadcast, which stated that Finland had been divided in two and Northern Finland was now governed by a junta of pop people. The pop junta threatened Southern Finland with Air Guitar Forces, unless the drummer of Aknestik was immediately released from the police gaol in Helsinki. In an info flash Jarvis Cocker from PULP urged like Uncle Sam: "Join the Air Guitar Forces!" Around the same time we were trying to come up with ideas for the street event at the next festival. This was how it all started: we have to organise Air Guitar World Championships!"
1. Oikku Ylinen (FIN)
2. Rehtori-Heko (FIN)
2. Petri Heikkinen (FIN)