The Getai Spirit Lives

Front Row Singapore

The emcee engages the crowd in amusing dialect banter before introducing her next act. The band begins to play, and lighting and smoke effects are added as the artist sings a Hokkien ballad while dancing in her glittering costume. The getai stage ignites, and the spectators are enraptured.

In Cantonese, a getai is a stage where songs are performed. It features variety of acts, including song and dance numbers. During the seventh month of the lunar calendar, getais are especially prominent in the heartlands, generating a lot of colour and noise.

Getai shows set to get seniors talking about end-of-life issues. Source (TODAYonline)
Getai. Source (Goody Feed)
Getai. Source (Roots.sg)

It is common for the first row of chairs to be left open for the spirits that are supposed to rove our world during this month, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival. During this month, many Chinese people would burn more incense and pray to their forefathers because it is thought that the Gates of Hell are open to allow spirits a free passage.

Despite the fact that most of the audience members are from the older generation, over 50 years old, it is remarkable that the spirit of getai endures. The phenomenon is a result of the Chinese organizations, merchants, and entrepreneurs investing their own money into putting on a getai show. Typically, a dinner and auction are held at this time to assist a particular charity or individual.

Hungry Ghost Festival: All you need to know and heed about the 7th-month celebrations. Source (The Straits Times)
Live music for the dead. Source (AsiaOne)
Hungry Ghost Festival. Source (Hindustan Times)

The getai has certainly changed over the years, but it hasn’t gone extinct. With LED lights, smoke machines, and a fully equipped sound system, today’s getai scene may be likened to electric. The getai run continues as a bevy of young dancers join the action, while the experienced artists continue to perform well-known songs from the previous generation. There are several Facebook groups/pages that provide information on getai activities and locations.

Aside from technological advancements, getting has also adopted the trend. They have a license to operate until 10.30 p.m., which is reasonable given their residential location near homes. The wearing of revealing clothing, cross-dressing, and the use of obscene language are all prohibited.

Visit a getai near your house and experience the spirit – of the getai. Just be sure you don’t sit in any of the designated seats.

Religions | Free Full-Text | Live Streaming and Digital Stages for the Hungry Ghosts and Deities. Source (MDPI)
The getai spirit lives on. Source (Marshall Cavendish Education)

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