The Getai Fever

Currently, we’re in the month of September, better known to some of us as the Seventh Month of the Chinese calendar. During this period, the Hungry Ghost Festival is observed. Here comes the interesting part: Ever been to a Getai or walked past one before? Otherwise seen clips on tv or photos in the papers?

I’m sure most of the locals have come across this event one way or another. Remember back in the days, where dancers and singers would strut onto stage with huge feathers decorating their costumes. How times have changed or rather ‘upgraded’ with additional features to new-age Getai. The performers include a much younger age group ranging from 4-20 years old these days. Moreover, performing acts have become more explicit and flamboyant. Some performers have their outfits reduced to bare minimum. Scantily dressed acts may boost entertainment value but is it appropriate as a form of public performance in Singapore? Does is substantiate the meaning behind The Hungry Ghost Festival?


One of the highlights this year is Pole Dancing. Not that I do not encourage such dances, I agree it has a certain level of difficulty and it takes a lot of courage for one to pick it up. But to perform Pole Dancing at such a festival seems rather inappropriate and insignificant. Some may argue that Singapapore did showcase such talents during the National Day Parade 2009. Yes, it is a growing interest amongst more than a handfull of us and portraying the different forms of dance during the Nation’s Birthday acceptable. However, let’s look at things from a micro perspective, what are children being exposed to when they pass by Getai(s)? How would families who practice conservative principles feel? The event should be respected and not deemed as one which only attracts ‘dirty old men’.  Maybe some of the Getai fans and audience are purely enjoying the songs and everything would seem ‘okay’ during this festival. What I mean is, can you imagine an uncle dancing to the Cadubury Advertisement outside Lido, that would be strange isn’t it? Would people regard uncles dancing and cheering before the platform of the stage as one of concupiscence ? We would not want to promote the latter as such.


filming getai uploaded on stomp

(PHOTOS by STOMP,Sept 2009)

host in boxers and pole dance

taiwanese getai singer

(Sept 2nd, PHOTO FROM

‘ These changes show modernisation,not of prinicples,but of styles’

(Vivienne Wee,anthropologist at NUS)

As receipients,after the process of decoding..

What is the message Getai(s) want to amplify?


13 Responses to “The Getai Fever”

  1. jj Says:

    I guess if they are trying to do stuff to attract new people, it will be an evolutionary process. Personally, I have not seen any getai performances before. But pole dancing sounds interesting… Haha.

  2. jun Says:

    The upcoming trends of such ” inappropriate activites” on stage might be part of the plans to attract crowds of the middle age. After all, it’s the aunties and uncles who’re supporting the getais, not the younger generation. I’m quite sure doing hiphop or raggae on stage wouldn’t be a wise choice? Hahah

  3. Weiyu Says:

    Well i suppose things are always bound to change and evolve in time! If modern Indian dance can incorporate hip-hop elements and they don’t really mind it, i guess maybe pole-dancing is just a new addition to Getai? Getai has come a long way afterall, since my grandma and great grandma’s time. Catching up with modern entertainment for that old-bird won’t be easy, so i guess maybe Pole-dancing is trying to draw the attention of the younger crowd? If you ask me, I’d just say why the hell not! And it’s no myth that Sex.Sells.Big Time.

  4. s33 Says:

    well, if they dun keep up with society and changes, in the next 5 years there will be no more getai. so i guess its a good thing that we are even bothering to read into them. i think instead of having such sensual/sexual content, they should start getting a more varied artist like singing pop english songs whch appeal to the young too.

  5. Premier Chan Says:

    When we observe any “celebration” which is part of a culture, it is alright to mix the traditional with the new. However, the traditional should form a major part of the celebration. If we maintain only traditional entertainment only the older generation will be interested while if you mix in a little modern entertainment it may attract the younger generation. Regardless of how it is celebrated, it should depict the theme. I am not sure of the relevance of pole dancing to the ghost festival.

  6. emm Says:

    what do they want ppl to think of them as? who are the ppl they wanna send a msg to? looks like they are foreigners who need jobs for income hahah. anw, in such a globalized world, i think our traditional roots are losing its contact with the new generation. so they have no choice but to hype up their performances. they cant change the ‘opera’-like singing so they alter appearances. Celebrities perhaps? and sending the message to everyone to COME WATCH. which in my perspective downplays the Hungry Ghost Festival. What is the purpose of Getai(s) during the festival? is it really necessary? why cant they appeal to a range of age groups? have magic shows for the young, choose songs that are more popular, perhaps they just wanna carve a name for themselves, and disregard the festival altogether. in my opinion, the getai scene is losing its roots.

  7. kaypoh Says:

    i disagree with emm. afterall they do have talent. i think they are really working hard to ensure they provide entertainment, whether they attract a certain group or not, as long as they attract thats great what. they are the ones who are going to keep the traditional roots (as what emm said) alive. without them, how are getais going to survive?

  8. emm Says:

    they can survive by inculcating shows that appeal to a larger group of the masses. like what i said, magic shows, choosing popular songs and not just sexy pole dancing and ‘barely-there’ clothing to attract MEN. when i pass by the getai(s) it is just crowded with old men, middle-aged men, young men, men and more men. where are their wives, spouses, children? isnt it turning into some porn live video? they are definitely losing their traditional roots. i guess it boils down to the objective of the getai(s). do they want it like a family celebratory event where they can enjoy themselves and reminisce the old days during the hungry ghost festival or is it just to attract people (men) to watch?

  9. claudia Says:

    i agree with kaypoh. getai is just a less “hip” and “conventional” stage that people who have talents but without a proper stage to show their voices/moves. imagine big names like kylie m, madonna, gwen stefani do sexy pole dancing and making them all so famous, getai can too. yes, probably getai attracts mostly “lao chee ko” but i think we have to recognise its existence that differs us from many other countries and applaude for its willingness to modernise. anyway, side track, getai are for the spirits right? if so, maybe once one is dead, the only form of entertainment during the lunar 7th month is watching the getai performance- just like how you and i enjoy our concerts,movies etc. and since its only for one month, what is so unberable?
    * at least getai keep any form of sexual harasement from lao chee ko low during that month since they will be so occupied at getais… lol. gd what 🙂

  10. madhiah Says:

    at least these getai performances are “legalised”. as much as pole dancing is involved, i guess it stops at just pole dancing per say? as long as they don’t start stripping in public, i suppose this “modernisation” of a traditional culture is acceptable.

    then again, where children’s impressionable minds are concerned, i guess pole dancing isn’t really a wise thing to do to attract audiences. wouldn’t it lose the tradition which they are trying to “uphold” and “upgrade”?


  11. AA Says:

    hmm i think that getai is more of a culture and not so much of a tradition, so i don’t think that it’s strange or inappropriate to see such new age getai in singapore. in a very ‘warped’ sense, the ghosts of today are also made up of people who have passed away recently, so don’t you think that they’d like to some performances that are catered to them, and not just performances that have been showing since 20 years ago.

  12. bernice Says:

    I agree with emm, the getai now is losing its traditional roots. it is on show now more or less for the older generation. I do not see many people from the younger generation sitting down under the tent to watch getai. Perhaps movies such as “881” has cultivated and helped to create an interest and awareness of the getai to the younger generation.

    The getai is known by all for its loud costumes and colourful performances. Perhaps there could be more rules put in place for participants on what they can wear/perform to make the getai more PG-rated, to encourage the grandparents who watch the getai to want to bring their grandchildren along to expose them to their culture. It is important that getai continues to run for the next few years to come. It is part of our heritage and we should embrace it, and not let it become an event which is filled with lust and “dirty old men”.

  13. Dylon Says:

    Contrary to what most think. Its not easy not keep tradition as it is. From time to time, We have to embrace ourselves with the different changes to cater to the crowds. There has to be a balance between traditional (otherwise read as slightly boring) and what people would wanna see. In fact, why not we all not bother about tradition. We understand how Getai is, then we just let it be and be open with how Getai has evolved. There’s this much we can do just to make sure every show is as Getai like as possible, so why not we just remember Getai as it is, put it down in history and take every show we see as something new and something different. Well, definitely, we could have one Getai show as it is, but yet we can have another which essentially shows us what Getai evolved into.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: