Thursday, 15 February 2018

Beyond The Frame | The Getai Singer | Fuji GFX50s

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved
The Beyond The Frame posts on The Travel Photographer blog are currently its most popular feature, and I'm glad to have recently restarted it after a long (and inexplicable) hiatus.

However, I intend its posts to not only be photographically 
informative, but also to include snippets of culture that may not be widely known, and which I frequently either intentionally seek or stumble upon on my photo journeys.

While wandering at the back of the stage of a Hokkien (Chinese) opera troupe in Klang (near Kuala Lumpur) taking photographs of the performers applying their intricate makeup and putting on their costumes, I noticed a young woman in an unusually constructed dress, nervously pacing to and fro, rehearsing her lines which she read off a scrap of paper. She wasn't part of the troupe, so I engaged her in a conversation to find out how she fitted in the upcoming show.

She informed me that she was the 'warm-up' show for the Chinese opera that would follow in an hour...and when it was her turn to come on stage, it was indeed quite an act.


Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy | All Rights Reserved (Fuji X-Pro2)

She was a getai singer; singers whose live stage performances are usually boisterous, maximally amplified by enormous loudspeakers at each side of the outdoor stages, and could occasionally be off-key (at least, this one was). 

The getai shows emerged in Singapore during the years of Japanese occupation in the 1940s, and have long been popular concerts during Chinese festivals (such as the Hungry Ghosts and the Nine Emperor Gods festivals) since they are believed to appease ghosts, but also provide lively entertainment attracting younger audiences to the traditional and staid Chinese opera performances.

I watched this getai singer's half-hour show from the sides of the stage, and very briefly in front of the stage. Her performance was "Britney Spears meets Madonna" (in Chinese), but she managed to liven up (electrify would be too strong a word) an audience of middle-aged and elderly spectators who were there for the Chinese opera that would follow.

For readers who are brave enough to listen to a short live recording of her act, here's the clip. I could make out some words in English such as "what's goin' on"...




The technical details for the top photograph are: Fuji GFX50s + 63mm. 1/580th sec Hand Held. f2.8. iso 800. Spot Metering. Date: 2017-10-27 at 21:11:00 (Kuala Lumpur time). SOOC.

For my galleries of the Chinese Opera back stages and shows in Kuala Lumpur, here's Backstage and Yan Yang Tian Troupe.