WATCH: How Singapore’s getai boss is reviving the dying trade

Seventh Month and getai are synonymous—which is why everyone should do their best to preserve the latter, lest it cause the former to disappear as well, according to getai organizer Aaron Tan.

The 41-year-old founder of LEX(S) Entertainment Productions is well-known within the industry, but won’t admit it unless it’s to acknowledge that getai has come a long way since its near death in 2001, when he first stepped in to help.

Before that, he had been part-timing as a personal assistant to a getai veteran, the late Lin Li; learning the ropes and falling in love with the culture. When an industry insider predicted the death of the trade in eight years’ time, he was determined not to let it die “during his generation”.

Thus began his 16-year journey to revamp the face of the trade, which includes introducing LED lights onstage and switching to Cantopop-inspired costumes for the performers.

Outside the industry, Tan is most famed for holding the first getai concert in Orchard Road in 2011. The event was organized to draw youths, his trickiest target audience, away from the stigmatized perception of getai being old and outdated—towards embracing it as a hip trend, in the heart of the city.

“Now, if you don’t know getai, you’re out,” he grinned.

From his office in Sheng Hong Temple along Arunmugan Road, Tan shares that one key change moving forward is introducing younger performers to the scene, because “youngsters can attract crowds”. Today, the artistes he works with have their own groupies and fan clubs that support them as avidly as any Mediacorp celebrity fan club. Perhaps because of this, many hopefuls as young as 10 to 12 years old have approached him with dreams of singing getai.

But it isn’t as simple as just expressing interest and hopping onboard a trend. Tan says that while local Mandarin singing competitions today have produced viable new talent, one thing helps seed out potential getai stars from the rest—singing in dialect.

“Dialect is a must—because by helping getai survive, we are also keeping alive the culture of dialects,” he said. “My objective is just to preserve this culture and trade. We’ve done all we can for the next generation and now the next next generation is coming into getai.”

“Last time people looked down on us; these days performers are proud to say they sing for getai. So for now, we feel quite safe for this culture.”