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Getai goes virtual, sees new audiences from US and Europe, but its future is uncertain

SINGAPORE — In the place of the red chairs usually lined up in front of them, the performers now see cameras; in the place of their regular fans they see unfamiliar names.

A getai show by Lex(s) Entertainment Productions being live streamed from Studio Point at Performance Building on Aug 20, 2020.

A getai show by Lex(s) Entertainment Productions being live streamed from Studio Point at Performance Building on Aug 20, 2020.

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  • Due to Covid-19 restrictions, getai shows are now being livestreamed on social media platforms
  • These e-getai shows are attracting audiences as far as Australia, Germany and the US
  • Some getai organisers have been hit hard, as virtual shows are costly to produce



SINGAPORE — In the place of the red chairs usually lined up in front of them, the performers now see cameras; in the place of their regular fans they see unfamiliar names.

Covid-19 has made it impossible for getai performances to be held the traditional way in this seventh lunar month due to safe distancing measures, so organisers are holding virtual shows instead.

But for veteran performers like Mr Wang Lei, he cannot help but feel that something is missing.

“It’s not the same. I miss the noise, the bustling atmosphere and the feeling of the live band, even the police cars that come to handle noise complaints,” said the 59-year-old who has been performing getai for the past 22 years.

Mr Wang now does his getai shows in a filming studio, with cameras livestreaming his performances on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Such e-getai shows are drawing a different crowd as well.

For 20-year-old Jasmine Seah, she loves the fact that she could watch the shows from the comfort of her home. She can re-watch them at any time if she misses them live.

“The physical getais can get a bit too loud sometimes, and people get very rowdy,” said the National University of Singapore undergraduate. “Most people who attend are older so I feel out of place sometimes.”

Getai host Lee Pei Fen misses the face-to-face interactions with her audience.

“Now all I can do is just read the comments and say hello to them,” she said.

As it is now a virtual show, performers have to find ways to keep their audience engaged.

“Every night there are four to five livestreams which the audience can choose from, unlike physical performances where everything is in one place, so people can get bored and easily switch to another stream,” said another getai singer, Mr Jason Chung.

And while Ms Lee does see some of her fans commenting on live streams, she has not heard or seen around 40 per cent of her fans that would attend her physical performances.

A studio crew filming a virtual getai show. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY


However, e-getai is bringing new audiences, which some hope will give the scene a new lease of life.

Mr Aaron Tan of Lex(S) Entertainment Productions said his e-getai shows see an average of 10,000 to 12,000 concurrent viewers. Physical getai shows, by contrast, can hold only up to 500 attendees.

Mr Wang quipped: “We have audience members from Australia, America, Malaysia, Indonesia, Germany and other countries that comment on how they enjoy our shows.”

His auctions and performances have also gained traction on Chinese social media platform Douyin, which he said has racked up a billion views.

As for Ms Lee, e-getai comes with other perks, such as being in a sheltered and air-conditioned studio. This means she can perform rain or shine — and she has more costume choices.

This switch to livestreams, however, risks alienating getai’s loyal elderly audience.

As elderly viewers are not as tech-savvy, some have no access to e-getai performances, cutting them out from the yearly shows which have been a tradition for some.

Mr Aaron Tan, the founder of Lex(s) Entertainment Productions. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY


The future of getai remains uncertain for those in the industry. While some are optimistic that more people will want to see physical getai shows after the pandemic, others are unsure if their newly gained viewers will come back.

“While there’s a new pool of supporters that I hope will come down for our normal getai performances in the future, I think some who are used to watching in the comfort of their homes will not come,” said Ms Lee.

“There could be a big revival for getai, we could see an increase in viewers for both physical and e-getai performances,” said Mr Chung.

Despite the uncertainty, performers and organisers alike all crave the “good old days” of being a proper stage, interacting with audiences and performing live again.

Besides, the absence of the traditional shows has hit some organisers hard.

For the more traditional organisers whose clients are mainly associations and temples, many have no bookings this year as their clients are unwilling to bear the additional costs that come with e-getai performances.

“We have to book a studio, hire staff and rent equipment, which increases the cost of organising by S$2,000 easily. Our usual physical show prices start at S$5,000 a night, but now e-getai shows cost S$6,000 to S$7,000,” said Mr Chen Ya Liang, owner of Creative Entertainment Production.

The company typically organises 10 shows during the Hungry Ghost Festival but was unable to hold any this year.

The getai singers who spoke to TODAY said that the number of shows has decreased significantly this year.

Getai singer Chung said he was used to getting between 30 and 40 shows a month previously, but having more than 10 bookings is now rare in the industry.

“The traditions have also changed. Now prayers and offerings are done on a much smaller and simpler scale as there are fewer people due to social distancing measures and the worsening economy,” said Mr Chung.

For Mr Edwin Koh, he hopes the physical shows will return as he misses the bustling atmosphere. The 26-year-old would attend such shows every year, but does not watch e-getai livestreams.

The Singapore Management University business undergraduate said: “There’s a sense of belonging when a local community of different ages comes together to watch getai which can’t be replicated through a livestream.”

Ms Rosalind Chung has also not watched the virtual shows as they do not have the atmosphere that she enjoys. Rather, 56-year-old assistant manager watches older videos of her favourite getai singer Liu Ling Ling, which reminds her of the vibrancy of the physical shows.

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