First Time at Getai
Where: Bukit Panjang Open Field
When: Originally published on Sep 2, 2012
Last night, I joined my parents and watched getai [歌台].
I had wanted to for a few years now, especially since the Royston Tan film 881 which I, well, haven’t watched. This was my first time seated at a full-fledged getai show, and while I was unfortunately afflicted by cigarette smoke, it didn’t quite detract from the positive vibes I gleaned from the lively atmosphere.
Amidst the flashy lights, costumes and booming sounds of the various performers, and the frequent banter of the anchors (which was predictable but nonetheless successful), what I most appreciated was what I could see offstage. There is no actual backstage, so you can see what the performers do beside the stage.
You see taxis zooming in and out, dropping dressed-up performers each time. They, of course, have to perform at a few places each night. I guess the cabbies must have been booked for the night, but anyway, as you see them shuttle from place to place, each time stopping to perform and try[ing] to interact with the crowd just for some 10 minutes, sometimes needing to sing a cappella when requested… it must take some determination and aspiration. It speaks of the struggle of making art a living.
And then the anchors. From start to end, they work[ed] tirelessly to put an entertaining show together, constantly needing to hold the stage and entertain the crowds with their humour
s, constantly needing to cater to the organisers both onstage and offstage. I don’t know how many times they might have done these over how many years, but it must take much sweat to make each getai offering one that would attract and satisfy those below stage, some of whom also offer such enthusiastic support as well.
It’s only my first time, and it has come pretty late. I don’t like when people turn speakers too loud for my liking, but I enjoyed it. It was loud, but it was a more close-up experience than what, say, a rock concert, can provide. Sometimes we should just put down our headphones and appreciate live music for its atmosphere.
p.s. I’d put photos, if only I brought a camera handphone along haha…
I thought little about getai since, though I did attend 2 further getai performances, one of massive turnout somewhere in Jurong. The outfits are predictably flamboyant, but there are surprises on the musical front. Getai is distinctive, but it’s certainly not homogeneous.
Last year, a getai contest was televised and later crowned as the top-viewed and best variety special of 2015. Great reward for these unsung heroes! Hopefully, getai does not become a mere stepping stone to greener pastures.
The communal accessibility and bonding is what gives getai its zip.