Are Getai now on . line?
It is 2020, the seventh month of the lunar calendar, 9.00pm.
Where there would have been bright lights, loud blaring music and singing, and a massive audience, now lies stillness and social distancing signs. Where did the Getais go?
For those who do not know, Ge-Tai (歌台) directly translates to “song stage” in the Chinese language.
Ge-Tai is usually held during the “Hungry Ghost Festival” in the seventh month of the lunar calendar to entertain the dead and the living (Koh & Ho, n.d.).
With origins as entertainment for the Japanese and the locals during the Japanese occupation, much has changed since its humble beginnings.
This is especially so for 2020… This year has bought about a new wave of changes and challenges. With the social distancing and circuit breaker measures in place, the annual Ge-Tai has made its debut on the digital platform – taking place in a studio and broadcasting it all over the internet.
Before 2020, Ge-Tai were free concerts usually commissioned by temples or grassroot organisations. However, due to circuit breaker restrictions, few organisations see any purpose to stage them.
What might come as a shock to most is the ge-tais performers and hosts that do manage to get booked for the online shows are now seen selling products besides performing- something they would not have to do under normal circumstances. Their income has been drastically affected by the pandemic due to decreased number of shows, and in order to maintain their livelihood, many have taken on the role of a live-stream sales promoter (Yip, 2020).
Veteran getai host Marcus Chin has been selling things such as health supplements and fresh seafood among many other products, while others such as Taiwanese getai singer, Hao Hao, together with Marcus, will often have to switch between performing and promoting (Yip, 2020).
" Marcus and Hao Hao are just two of the many trying to adapt to this drastic change. "
For many of the performers, it has been a challenge to go from their usual singing and hosting to grasping the methods of effective promotion and advertising.
Luckily, aid has come in the form of support from fellow getai performers. Veteran getai host Liu Ling Ling has insisted on taking charge of the shows in order to help as many getai singers and hosts as possible to get work and experience (Yip, 2020).
Though met with many obstacles, most of the performers expressed that they are just grateful to be able to keep ge-tai culture alive in a time where people’s priorities might have shifted (Yip, 2020). Everyone is trying their best to come together creatively to ensure that the getai culture and tradition will still have a place in today’s society and will not lose its footing among the sea of newer, more interactive digital content. The good news is, the performers are not the only ones on this journey to preserve the spirit of getai.
Every cloud has a silver lining - Even for the Ge-Tai scene
Though the Getai scene this year has been greatly affected by the pandemic, technology has also provided multiple opportunities on how Getai can evolve in the future. Mr Tan, the founder of Lex(S) Entertainment Productions expressed that though Ge Tai has moved online, quality is not something that should be compromised – This is seen through the set up of a 270-degree-angle view of the stage for an immersive experience in order to mimic the feeling of watching it live.
The government has also been extremely supportive of the movement of getais online. The shows online are supported by the Ministry of Communications and Information, and occasionally, ministers such as the likes of Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Sim Ann and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, made guest appearances on these shows (Sun, 2020).
Therefore, these might have been factors contributing to the high number of viewers for online shows, surpassing that of live performances.
Each episode has been garnering 700,000 views on average, with some days breaking the 1 million mark (Sun, 2020).
The switch to online has also benefited some performers, with them noting that their fanbase has increased tremendously due to their unique online persona (Lim, 2020).
This also brings about the question that might plagued many people- So what is the future of Getai? Is moving it online better for perseveration and garnering more attention, especially when it comes to engaging the youths?
Future of Ge-Tai: Will we see the at the end of the tunnel?
As technology becomes even more widely utilised than ever before in this era, many corporations and businesses are finding ways to maximise its usage in their operations. This is by no means different for events and festivals such as Getais. Amidst the pandemic, many arts festivals have been moved online and experimenting with ways to provide a unique experience that parallels or even surpass that of a physical festival. The pandemic has provided the starting point for change in the Getai scene.
For the performers, online getai can open up more platforms for them. Technology enables digital content to reach from one end of the world to another. This helps to spread the culture of getais to international audiences and help to increase awareness of such a traditional event and preserve it for more years to come.
Performers such as getai veteran Liu Ling Ling noted that in the past getais were meant for an older audience (Lim, 2020). However, in the digital era, they are now looking to engage younger audiences and these can only be achieved through having new faces and visuals to present a different getai (Lim, 2020). It will be a challenge to find the balance between preserving the traditional element of getai and adapting certain elements to suit the future generations. However, this will have to be one challenge the industry must overcome in order to bring getai to an even grander and brighter stage. Luckily, the government has been providing assistance throughout the years to help revive getais through several initiatives and movements.
What can you do to help?
Though getais for the year of 2020 has already ended, there are still countless more online events and festivals that are up and running. We can show our support by tuning in to live performances or concerts, or patronising their website and trying out the activities they have in store for us. By doing so, not only are we helping to sustain the industry, but you might be surprised at how innovative and interesting some of the online events and activities are!
Kickstart your journey of supporting the arts through these tough times by reading our other article, “VERVEtual events”!
If they interest you, do remember to share it with your friends and family!