SINGAPORE - Veteran getai singer and host Lin Ruping used to do multiple shows across Singapore in a single night, drawing up to 3,000 fans each time.
These days, the 70-year-old grandmother of two considers herself lucky to be able to play live shows again, even though the audience has dwindled to 50 each time due to safe distancing measures.
Still, she is happy because physical performances are more fulfilling than the virtual and online shows she has been doing in the last two years since the pandemic started.
"When we do online and virtual shows, we are singing to the camera, to the wall. The mood, the atmosphere, is not there," she says in a telephone interview. "So when we have live shows again, although there are only 50 people in the audience, you can see them, their reactions. I'm very excited, the mood is coming back."
On March 5, she will take the stage for her first full-scale concert in two years.
The Getai In Retrospect show at the Esplanade Concert Hall will also feature veteran getai artistes Huang Qing Yuan and Li Jin Cai; seasoned performers Yuan Jin, Josephine Lam and Jason Chung; as well as newer acts 2Z Sisters and Anddi Goh.
"This show will bring back sweet memories for the elderly, but we also have three generations of singers," she says. "It's an honour to be able to perform at the Esplanade, an icon for cultural shows."
Having been involved with getai since the 1980s, Lin has seen first-hand how much it has evolved over the decades - from wooden roadside stages to productions with fancy sound and light effects to virtual shows taking place online.
Lin was formerly a deejay on radio broadcaster Rediffusion, but when dialects were phased out, she moved to hosting Mandarin television shows in 1984.
In 1986, her friends from the getai scene asked her to sing and emcee.
She fondly recalls having to queue at the side of the stage to await her turn for a 15-minute singing slot in her early days. After performing, she would rush to a waiting car and be whisked off to another venue, where she would have to stand in line all over again.
Lin, who has also taken on roles in movies such as the Jack Neo comedy Money No Enough 2 (2008), has built up a loyal fan base over the years. Many of them regularly message her on Facebook and buy her food. "Even when we moved to online shows, they will go online to support me. We've become friends."
She hopes that physical getai shows with larger audiences will be allowed again, as she says that many fellow performers have had to put their careers on hold and had their incomes affected. She considers herself one of the lucky ones who are still able to get gigs, as she is able to host in English and Chinese.
"Getai is a very special culture in Singapore. We take the shows to the heartland and entertain the people with singing and talk shows."
Book It/Getai In Retrospect
Where: Esplanade Concert Hall
When: March 5, 7.30pm
Admission: $35 and $45; concessions available, from Sistic (go here or call 6348-5555)