Friday, 31 August 2007

Getai Galore


in 8 hours time, i may be off to catch another "getai" (translated as song-stage), a makeshift street cabaret of song and raunchy jokes that takes place every 7th lunar month. its a Chinese belief that in this lunar month, the gate of hell will open and spirits are allowed to roam the mortal world. to appease these wandering spirits, prayers and offerings are made at temples and homes while traditional opera would be staged. in the mid 20th century, the tradition opera gave way to more contemporary song and dance numbers with gawdy cabaret costumes. the first role seats will be deliberately left empty - 'reserved for the invisible brothers'.

they would be performed in local dialects like hokkien and it's quite popular with the blue-collar folks. in the heyday, performers will be invited as far as Taiwan and Malaysia, even singers from other races will to make a buck or two by dishing out a few hokkien numbers. performers will move quickly from location to location, as they are paid by performance. each performer may be paid $200-$400 for his/her 5 song routine at every "tai" (stage/location). a hardworking performer may pack in some 8-10 "tai"s in a night.

however in recent decade, with the advent of the loss of use of dialects, these performance have been staged in lesser numbers and the crowds dwindled to tens rather than the hundreds that used to flock to catch them.


Pete said...

Wilkie - amazing - I'd love to see the street performances - had to check out Getai a bit more and found the new movie 881 - I expect you have seen it already?

wilkie said...

yaps caught the movie. not well done in the technical sense but an impactful movie that revived (perhaps temporarily) an interest in this twilight industry.