Getai holds its ground despite Covid-19 pandemic
Shows go online, performers adapt and organiser explores innovative ideas
The Hungry Ghost Festival is a Taoist celebration and getai is a critical part of the month-long observance.
But while concerts and other musical events have been affected by safe management measures since the pandemic, getai has managed to hold its ground.
Getai organiser Aaron Tan, founder of Lex(S) Entertainment Productions, told The New Paper: “Don’t you know, all getai artistes are like rubber bands – elastic and flexible.
“We can adapt quickly and easily.”
Mr Tan, 45, had explored the possibility of holding shows online in 2013, way before the pandemic.
He said: “By starting out early, both our performers and audience were familiar with the online platform. When we had to move fully online last year, they were prepared.”
Mr Tan has experimented with various ways of giving getai an online presence, including live-streaming shows on his own Facebook page. He set up a dedicated Lex-S Watch Live Channel on Facebook in 2018 and on YouTube in 2019.
Last month, Associate Professor Lim Poh Lian, director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases’ high-level isolation unit, told The Straits Times: “Making vaccination as accessible as possible is needed to close the last mile gap for (seniors). We may need to think outside the box... to reach them – perhaps a getai performance or a raffle with donated prizes?”
That was the main goal for Getai Fun Nite e-Getai Show, a collaboration between Gov.sg and Lex(S) Entertainment Productions.
The online getai, which was staged for the second year in June, entertained a virtual audience while sharing information on the Covid-19 pandemic and safe management measures.
When this newspaper first interviewed Mr Tan in 2004, he was billed as the youngest getai organiser with less than three years of experience.
He had one lofty ambition: To keep the then-dying spirit of getai alive.
In 2011, he took getai to the heart of Orchard Road, where he organised a show outside Ngee Ann City that drew a crowd of more than 10,000.
Mr Tan is determined to continue exploring innovative ideas for the younger generation.
He said: “Getai started humbly with ‘grassroots’, and it will progress as community and technology do. It will not stall, and there will always be something new – that is how getai stayed popular for so many years.”
Each live-streamed show gets more than 10,000 real-time audience members, compared with around 1,000 at a physical show.
And, Mr Tan believes virtual viewing does not diminish the interaction between performers and viewers.
“In fact, the audience feels more engaged now as the performers can see their comments on the big screen and reply to them. It will also make the singers feel more appreciated,” he said.
Emcee Lee Pei Fen, who has been performing on stage as a singer since she was six, appreciates the positive changes.
She said: “I have seen the content of getai becoming more localised throughout the years, and now with (the collaboration with the government), our audience can get information and entertainment at the same time – I like to call it infotainment.”
For Ms Choo Li Li, 58, of the Ming Zhu Sisters, a veteran getai singer with over 50 years of experience on stage, the evolving e-getai does pose challenges.
She welcomes these challenges such as replying to comments and learning the latest trending songs at her audiences’ request. She said: “It challenges me to step out of my comfort zone and learn new things.”
And that is how the shows will go on. Said Mr Tan: “Getai is not just a heartland culture, it’s a unique Singapore culture.”