Coronavirus pandemic forces Singapore’s getai concerts for the dead to go online
- Getai shows are mainly held during the Hungry Ghost Festival in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, when spirits of the dead are believed to return
- Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the popular form of entertainment in Southeast Asia is now being broadcast over the internet
The live-stream is a lifeline for performers like Febe Huang, who earns her living staging getai with her husband across the region.
“When this pandemic hit, there were two or three months where we just didn’t have any income at all,” she said. “We started selling things online so we had a little bit of a salary. And now this live-streamed getai has started.”
Getai shows are mainly held during the Hungry Ghost Festival in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, when spirits of the dead are believed to return to wander the Earth.
Performers say without the thrill of a live crowd, it’s not quite the same.
Still, the online performances have proven hugely popular, with some attracting audiences of hundreds of thousands.
Aaron Tan, founder of a company that produces getai concerts, said the hope is that new fans drawn to the online performances will mean bigger audiences for live shows when they reopen.
Ahead of a performance in a recording studio last weekend, caretakers from temples brought in statues of deities.
There were food offerings for the gods, with cans of Guinness beers and a bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu cognac.
Brightly dressed performers cracked jokes and sang songs in Hokkien, the main dialect of Southeast Asia’s Chinese diaspora.
“So we treasure, we really cherish this opportunity,” said veteran getai performer and comedian Liu Ling Ling.