Guitars, Jimi Hendrix, and the Uniting Vibration of Music

Guitar Guinness World Record Festival founder Leszek Cichoński (center) and Michael Jackson/Jeff Beck guitarist Jennifer Batten (far left) onstage before 7,423 guitar-wielding participants in Wroclaw Poland, May 1, 2019. [Photo by the author]

Europe’s biggest guitar festival has broken the Guinness World Record for Largest Guitar Ensemble for the second straight year.

Held annually on May 1 in Wroclaw Poland’s lovely Market Square, the Guitar Guinness World Record Festival invites players from all around the planet to gather and perform “Hey Joe”—the song made famous by legendary guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix—to attempt to smash the previous record. In 2018, the festival did just that, logging 7,411 guitarists.

However, the 2018 record lasted just 12 months.

“We have another world record,” shouted festival founder Leszek Cichoński, who stood onstage with Wroclaw mayor Jacek Sutryk, who also wielded a guitar to help the cause. “There are 7,423 guitars here. Thank you. And we will meet every year to unite ourselves with music in the name of Jimi Hendrix!”

Wroclaw mayor Jacek Sutryk holds up the sign announcing the crowd’s record-breaking performance of “Hey Joe.” [Photo by Agata Wladyczka] 

WATCH THE RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE!

Cichoński started the day-long celebration of guitar in 2003, when only 588 players showed up.

Today, the Wroclaw guitar extravaganza is truly one of the world’s musical treasures, and the city has supported the event ever since its debut.

[BTW: Wroclaw is a truly wonderful place to visit—whether you play guitar or not—and, in fact, it was voted European Best Travel Destination in 2018. Read the story here.]

Headliners performing classic Hendrix hits—as well as other songs—have included Steve Vai, Al Di Meola, Steve Morse, Tommy Emmanuel, Scott Henderson, Greg Koch, Dave Hill (Slade), and Jennifer Batten. But, arguably,  the real thrill is seeing thousands of every day people—males, females, hippies, punks, rockers, rappers, blues disciples, students, police officers on horseback, nuns, priests, teens, pre-teens, crazies in elaborate costumes, grandpas and grandmas, soldiers, classical maestros, and, yes, even professional guitarists—carrying their acoustic and (unplugged) electric guitars into the Market Square to strum along to the music performed onstage.

[Side note: One of the strangest “magic tricks” about the festival is when the stage band stops playing, the joyous jangle from the immense crowd always appears to be in tune and rhythmically on the money. Wild!]

The many faces of record-breaking guitar players. [Photo by the author]

A renowned guitarist and songwriter himself, it was—no surprise—Cichoński’s adoration for Hendrix’s music that kicked off what has become a source of world-wide pride for the city of Wroclaw, as well as an annual destination for guitar lovers across Europe.

Left to Right—Leszek Cichoński, Stan Skibby, and Jennifer Batten. [Photo by Agata Wladyczka] 

“I have been a Jimi Hendrix fan since my childhood,” explained Cichoński in a 2017 interview with me. “In 2001, I recorded Thanks Jimi: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and the response was such that I decided to organize an event to promote Hendrix’s music among young people. In fact, most of the festival’s young participants would never have learned about Jimi Hendrix—and would have never listened to his music—if not for the event. But here in Wroclaw, they not only listen, but perform, and they feel we are all playing together to create this universal vibration. Sometimes, I feel that Jimi looks down and takes care of us.”

Dave Hill—”Superyob” guitarist from the classic glam band Slade—invites the crowd to “kiss the sky” with their guitars to truly thank the spirit of Jimi. [Photo by the author]

Practicing before the Guinness World Record attempt. [Photo by Agata Wladyczka] 

Although Cichoński’s dream has grown up to become Europe’s largest “play-along” guitar festival, the dreamer wants even more. He has visions of promoting the “uniting vibration of music” all across the globe, and he has even devised a hand sign to spread the word.

“I’m trying to show the power of music to unite us all,” says Cichonski. “The UniVibe sign with its three fingers on the right hand represents hope, faith, and love. In Poland, it can also mean ‘take care.’ You see, so many things seek to separate us these days, but UniVibe is all about uniting us. I ask all musicians to show awareness for this sign. Let’s change the world!”

UniVibe Believers! Spread the Word! Left-to-right: Polish rocker Andrzej Nowak, London-based blues guitarist LeBurn Maddox, the author, Cichonski, and bassist/actor David Price. [Photo by Agata Wladyczka] 

Guardians of Guitar is supporting Cichonski’s mission in the USA. Look for UniVibe content throughout 2019, and leading up to the next Guitar Guinness World Record Festival in 2020.

WANT TO JOIN US IN WROCLAW POLAND ON MAY 1, 2020? CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!

The author (center), flanked by Cichonski (left) and bassist David Price (right), sings “Wild Thing” at the 2019 festival. [Photo by Agata Wladyczka] 

Author: Michael Molenda

Founder of Guardians of Guitar. Longest-serving Editor in Chief of GUITAR PLAYER (1997-2018). Long live Link Wray and Mick Ronson!


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