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Telling Singapore’s stories with Urban Screening

SINGAPORE — Observers of the local indie music scene would have noticed the word “getai” as a prefix of several gigs recently. Since January this year, we’ve seen Getai Electronica, Getai Ethnica, Getai Holidays and Getai Underground. It has nothing to do with the Hungry Ghost festival, though. The folks behind these gigs call themselves the Getai Group, and group member Timothy De Cotta said the collective is “a source of alternative, creative curation when it comes to art and music”.

SINGAPORE — Observers of the local indie music scene would have noticed the word “getai” as a prefix of several gigs recently. Since January this year, we’ve seen Getai Electronica, Getai Ethnica, Getai Holidays and Getai Underground. It has nothing to do with the Hungry Ghost festival, though. The folks behind these gigs call themselves the Getai Group, and group member Timothy De Cotta said the collective is “a source of alternative, creative curation when it comes to art and music”.

This curation may be exercised independently (Getai Electronica, Getai Holidays) or sanctioned like in the case of Getai Ethnica, held in conjunction with this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival; or a production such as Singapore Stories, a five-episode series done in collaboration with Discovery Channel.

Singapore Stories was certainly a feather in the Getai Group’s cap, marking their recognition beyond the indie scene. Vikram Channa, vice president of production and development (Asia-Pacific), Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said Singapore Stories was “a labour of love months in the making”.

The series will be launched tomorrow at Lepark (situated at the rooftop of the People’s Park Complex) with the screening of the five films from 4pm. The films will be broadcast on Discovery Channel on consecutive weeks from July 16 at 9pm. However, De Cotta was quick to point out that the event, called Urban Screening, was organised by Discovery Channel with the Getai Group coming in to help curate the music and food.

“We are just part of the entire brew. Consider us curation catalysts,” he said. “We always wanted to be more involved in film and saw this as a huge opportunity.”

Prior to the film screening, there will be a music performance by the eclectic duo Ferry X Cherie, which is made up of Jean Low, the lead singer of indie band Giants Must Fall, and Cherie Ko, the guitarist of Obedient Wives Club who also performs her music under the moniker Pastelpower.

The outdoor film screening is a throwback of sorts to the days when Singapore used to have outdoor cinemas, most notably the one in Jurong, but the music element is also another nod to the past: Back in the 1960s, local bands such as The Quests would provide entertainment in cinemas before a movie began.

From Channa’s perspective, the synergy between film and indie music was too compelling to pass up. “There is no better way to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday than to have a pool of local creative talent, be they film-makers or musicians, congregate in one place.”

But even beyond the event itself, Channa highlighted several crossover points in this initiative. “In film-making, music goes hand-in-hand with a compelling storyline,” he said. “Through Singapore Stories, we have featured local rapper ShiGGa Shay in the film Heartland, which touches on the nostalgia surrounding Dakota Crescent and its impending redevelopment next year. Benjamin Kheng, of the pop group The Sam Willows, also came on board to narrate Wild Cards, which highlights the journey of a local card flourishing group called The Virts.”

Some say it is encouraging that Discovery Channel sees how local music adds local feel and flavour, as well as providing an opportunity to take the Singapore indie music scene beyond local shores. For De Cotta and the Getai Group, it provides opportunities too.

“We want to start bigger brands and corporations considering local talent and content first before they go with ‘safe’ formulas that have worked, only because there haven’t been worthy alternatives to it,” he said. “The plus side is that there is a greater level of expression and ownership when original content is included in the curation of art or music at any event.”

But above all, De Cotta hopes that those attending Urban Screening will come away with something more. “We want people who come to watch the screening to not only have a good time, but to remember the experience deep in their memory banks,” he said.

Urban Screening is tomorrow from 4pm at Lepark, People’s Park Complex rooftop.

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