Getai performances in Singapore are usually held during the Hungry Ghost Festival, which falls during the seventh lunar month. It is usually a live stage performance were songs are boisterously sung in the different dialects and against the backdrop of gaudy and flashy lights. Noticeably, the first row of every getai performance is left empty.
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Interesting Artistic Concept.
Getai performances have long fascinated me with their interesting concept. Even as a young child, I was surprised to see singers singing on the stage for an empty audience or a sparse audience. Of course, being the inquisitive child that I was, I had to ask "Mummy, why are the performances empty? It's so sad for the performers. How do they get paid then?"
My mother's reply was, "Oh, it's because they believe that the spirits come back to listen to them sing, so the chairs are for them." That was then the empty audience suddenly became a haunted vicinity for me - I immediately felt a chill down my spine, it was as if knowing that information made me more paranoid about encountering spirits.
It was also only then that I learnt about the hungry ghost festival.
Despite the scary outlook of the entire event, the performances go through elaborate planning before being executed. It is part of the local culture and even overlaps with the idea of an arts event since it deals with the concept of singing and performing.