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Youngsters inject new blood into local getai scene

Getai is undergoing a revival of sorts, thanks to the interest created by local filmmaker Royston Tan's film "881" in 2007. 

SINGAPORE: Getai refers to outdoor concerts that are a common sight around Singapore during the seventh lunar month. In the past, these shows used to draw large crowds with their bright lights, glitzy costumes and energetic banter between veteran performers. Despite its waning popularity, some youngsters are not ready to give up the vanishing trade just yet.

Getai is undergoing a revival of sorts, thanks to the interest created by local filmmaker Royston Tan's film "881" in 2007. Mr Chen Ya Liang, a getai organiser with Creative Entertainment, hopped onto the getai bandwagon eight years ago to help his father. This year, he is organising all the getai shows by himself and bringing them up to date.

"Previously, our stage designs were not so colourful. Now there is so much LED lighting. Last time, there were just six wooden boards with colours around the stage when I first followed my dad to getai," said Mr Chen.

The performances are also moving with the times. Ms Anderene Choo started singing at getai shows three years ago and considers it her passion. "Not all youngsters these days sing getai, so I think it is quite cool."

Ms Li Peifen, a getai host who started her getai singing career at the age of six, explains how she went from spectator to performer: "I loved watching getai with my parents during my childhood days. I would sit by the stage and sing along with the singers. The singers thought I was cute so they pulled me on stage to sing with them, and it started somehow from there."

The singers may be young, but their experience in the industry helps them find new ways to appeal to the younger audience. "In previous years, maybe 90 per cent of the show was in dialect and 10 per cent Chinese. Now, we try to balance it at about 60 per cent dialect and maybe 40 per cent Chinese, or sometimes even English, so that we can cater to more of our friends or those who are not so familiar with dialect," said Ms Li.

Ms Esther Ng, a getai singer, said she caters to younger audiences by giving oldies a modern spin. She said: "As there are more and more younger people watching getai, I will sing some oldies but remix them into something more modern, so I can introduce the oldies to the younger people who watch getai nowadays."

Getai organisers are also reaching out to their fans via social media. Ms Pek Jiawei, a getai singer, uses Facebook to interact with fans. She said: "Facebook allows us to interact with our fans because it is a very good place to communicate with them, and we can ask them for opinions on topics such as what songs they like so we can improve ourselves."