Getai star


Singapore, Singapore

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Getai (literally song stage) is a loud and rowdy outdoor stage performance – held in open fields and car parks – during the Chinese seventh month, also known as ‘Ghost Festival’.

At the Chinese temple near where I live, they stage such shows a lot more often, including during Christmas and New Year – anytime the temple has a festival to celebrate or, perhaps, decides to raise funds.

Getai replaces traditional Chinese street opera, which is less seldom staged nowadays and, even if it is, attracts much smaller audiences.

Getai, which features popular singers – sometimes very young singers like this one, barely in her teens, sometimes singers in sexy, skimpy costumes and oftentimes with comperes making crude jokes – attract much bigger crowds.

But there are supposed to be TWO sets of audiences – the living and the dead. Such performances are supposed to entertain the spirits as well!

In 2007, Singapore film maker Roystan Tan produced a movie titled 881, about life of getai performers, in memory of Chen Jinlang, one of the most well-known getai singers, who died on 25 July 2006, coincidentally the 1st day of the Chinese 7th month that year.

Roystan Tan, incidentally, is known for titling all his movies with numbers. In this case, 8 is an auspicious number for the Chinese and it happened that 881, in Mandarin, is pronounced something like “pa-pa-ya”.

881 was as Singapore’s entry in the Foreigh Film category of the 2008 Academy Awards. It did not win, but enjoyed major box office success in Singapore.

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  • Cora Wandel
  • richardseah
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