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Air guitar for world peace

Christoph Tost, Kate MüserAugust 26, 2015

They master the art of surrending to music without an instrument. The world's best air guitarists are competing in Finland - and hoping to change the world, too.

Germany's national air guitar champion, Lady Liberty, aka Sabrina Schramm, Copyright: picture-alliance/EPA/K. Brandt
Image: picture-alliance/EPA/K. Brandt

Lady Liberty - dressed as the famous American statue - jumped around on stage, swung her hair in circles, and fell on the ground like a true rock star. The only thing that separated her from the rock greats was one thing: She wasn't holding a guitar.

In mid-July, Lady Liberty won Germany's national air guitar championships, held in a small bar in the central-western city of Koblenz. That earned her a ticket to the Air Guitar World Championships, taking place in Oulu, Finland from August 26-28.

2014 Air Guitar World Champion Nanami from Japan, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
Last year's surprise winner: Nanami from JapanImage: picture-alliance/dpa

For Lady Liberty - aka Sabrine Schramm - the World Championships are old hat. The 22-year-old student participated in the contest last year in Oulu as well, but came in ninth place. The 2014 winner was Nanami from Japan, who made it to the finals through a last-minute qualifying round.

"The atmosphere there is wild!" Schramm told DW.

Mastering the art of airiness

According to the Air Guitar World Championships website, the art is "all about surrendering to the music without having an actual instrument."

Orginality, technical ability and of course "airiness" are crucial factors when picking a winner. "Airiness - that is, the ability to transcend a new level of the art form," is how Germany's national jury member Ralf Prestenach explained it.

In Germany, the air guitar world is fairly low-key compared to other countries, like Finland, the US and Russia, where it's taken much more seriously. In the US, for example, 24 events in 19 states are held before a national winner is selected. This year, it's "Airistotle" aka Matt Burns, who took second place in Finland last year.

Infografik Luftgitarren-Weltmeister und Medaillenspiegel (1996-2014) ENG

Air guitar to bring world peace

Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015, the Air Guitar World Championships first started in Oulu in 1996 - albeit with a lofty aim. "The purpose of the Air Guitar World Championships is to promote world peace," reads the official website. "According to the ideology of the Air Guitar, wars would end, climate change stop and all bad things disappear, if all the people in the world played the Air Guitar."

With such positive prospects, "the whole universe is invited to play the Air Guitar for the world peace at the end of the competition" on Friday evening, August 28.

US air guitarist Airistotle Matt Burns, Copyright: picture-alliance/EPA/M. Kainulainen
"Airistotle" from the US is sure to be a tough competitorImage: picture-alliance/EPA/M. Kainulainen

In the meantime, the event will be opened by French air band Airnadette, which integrates lip syncing and miming into their performance. In the Dark Horses' Qualifying Round on Thursday, air guitarists who didn't make it through the national preliminaries have a last-minute chance to qualify for Friday's finals, which bring together air artists from countries as far afield as Japan, India, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan.

Lady Liberty "was born at the time when Freddie Mercury died," her mother told DW. "I thought, what can become of this girl now that she'll never be able to see Freddie?" Quite a lot, it seems. Germany's reigning air guitar champions will be doing her best to transcend that new level of airiness - and perhaps bring about world peace in the process - this week in Finland.