Getai sisters belt it out once more

Last night, the Ming Zhu sisters Choo Li Li (right) and Choo Leng Leng reunited on stage and performed a classic Chinese song. The duo received the inaugural Contribution award at the annual Shin Min-Wanbao Getai Awards 2015.
Last night, the Ming Zhu sisters Choo Li Li (right) and Choo Leng Leng reunited on stage and performed a classic Chinese song. The duo received the inaugural Contribution award at the annual Shin Min-Wanbao Getai Awards 2015. PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

When the Ming Zhu Sisters began putting on getai performances in the 1970s, they quickly became child stars. Over the next four decades, they went on to perform around the world, as far afield as the United States and Europe.

"The stage is my all and I would do it all over again if I had to choose my path in life once more," said Ms Choo Li Li, 52, in Mandarin.

Last night, she and her elder sister Choo Leng Leng, also 52, received the inaugural Contribution award at the annual Shin Min-Wanbao Getai Awards 2015 from the Minister of Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

The award seeks to recognise the contributions of getai artists who have been on the scene for more than 40 years. Veteran singer Huang Qing Yuan, 70, received the other Contribution award.

Organised by Singapore Press Holdings' Chinese evening newspapers Shin Min Daily News and Lianhe Wanbao, 31 awards were handed out, including most popular newcomer, best costume and the top 20 most popular getai artists.

Taiwanese singer-host Hao Hao, who declined to give his age, was crowned the best male getai singer and Zhong Jing Ling, 52, was named the best female getai singer.

About 6,000 people packed the exhibition hall at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre to catch the getai performances and almost $170,000 was raised through ticket sales and donations. The cheque was presented to President Tony Tan for the President's Challenge, an annual fund-raising initiative.

Some of the loudest cheers were reserved for the Ming Zhu Sisters, who performed a moving rendition of their classic Chinese song, "Xin Tao Hua Jiang". It was a rare reunion for the sisters as the elder sibling retired from the scene four years ago.

At the height of their career in the 1980s, they were booked for as many as 15 shows a night. Thereafter, interest in getai waned and picked up again only in 2007, when local filmmaker Royston Tan released his getai hit movie, 881. The songs from the movie were sung by the sisters.

Getai, which means "song stage" in Mandarin, refers to street performances of songs and skits. They are usually staged during the Hungry Ghosts Festival on the seventh month of the lunar calendar.

Said the younger Ms Choo, who continues to perform: "I miss the times when we used to perform. We have 'mo qi' (chemistry) so we can easily finish each other's songs and, at times, synchronise our dance without rehearsing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2015, with the headline 'Getai sisters belt it out once more'. Print Edition | Subscribe