Getai organiser, 23, wants to make the 7th month performance accessible to younger generation

Misconception clarified: all those getais during the seventh month do not earn organisers enough to last them the year.

Lee Wei Lin | August 17, 2022, 06:26 PM

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It's a Friday evening, and many 23-year-olds would be out with their friends—but not Silvya Tan, who has a mission to accomplish.

Before we delve into the story, here's a short introduction -- she's the youngest getai organiser in Singapore after recently taking over the reins from her parents.

The getai-slash-National Day dinner Silvya was in charge of. Photo by Lee Wei Lin

The getai-slash-National Day dinner Silvya was in charge of. Photo by Lee Wei Lin

Flanked by her dad Roy Tan and mum (who's too shy to be identified), she is getting everything ready for a getai that's slated to begin in just under an hour.

As she goes through her checklist -- ensuring that the performers have arrived, the band is ready, the stage is set up the way that it should be -- Tan is greeted by who we assume are getai regulars, some of whom tell her how long it's been since they've seen her, and that they're glad that getais are back in full force.

Growing up with getai

It's only after everything is in place that she sits down beside us with a sheepish, "Sorry, I kept getting sidetracked. It's a bit loud here because of the music... Will it be okay if we do the interview here?"

We say yes because it's fascinating to watch her in action.

At the grand ol' age of 23, she handles any situation that's been thrown at her with a steadfastness that you'd associate with someone who's in the biz for decades.

"Actually, I grew up with getai," Silvya would later tell us with a chuckle. "I used to follow my mum everywhere, so when they had to leave the house to work, I'd follow her to their getai shows. In a way, I have 20 years of experience."

Photo from Silvya Tan

Her parents founded InSync by Travellers 43 years ago, and they're now one of the most well-established getai organisers around.

Silvya didn't always think that she'd take over the family biz.

She worked for an insurance company after graduating with a Bachelors of Business Management from Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) in 2020, but resigned as she found the work "not for [her]".

When Safe Management Measures (SMM) were relaxed in April this year, Silvya's dad was traveling when a call came in for them to organise a getai.

"Things kind of fell in place -- he wasn't able to do the organising and asked me if I wanted to give organising a shot. I said yes, and here we are today," she explains.

"Now that I've resigned from my previous job, I can be a lot more hands-on, which is important because physical getais require you to be on the ground."

Getai organising not the cash cow people assume it is

With "about 20" shows during this year's lunar seventh month -- and this is about half of what they used to be pre-Covid -- some may think that getai organisers are able to earn enough for the entire year in a single month.

"No lah, no way!" Silvya shoots the idea down with a laugh.

"If it was so lucrative, the market would be flooded with organisers, right? We're busy during the seventh month, but during other months in the year, we have to find other sources of income. We'll starve otherwise!"

Silvya affectionately refers to most of the female getai performers as 'jie jie' (older sister). Photo by Silvya Tan

That's why she's on the lookout for a full-time job, but with one key consideration: the work will have to be flexible enough for her to be able to take leave just before and during the seventh month, when she'll be busy organising shows.

She muses, "I thought about working for an event organiser, but you can't really tell them that you want to take an entire month or more off, especially if they have a big event then too, you know?"

For now, she's busying herself with her attempt to make getai more accessible to the younger generation.

It's a conundrum of sorts for Silvya, who reasons:

"Some people think that getai is only for older folks.

In order to attract the younger generations, the performers have to sing trendier songs. For that to happen, you'd generally have to get younger performers.

But if you do that, you risk alienating the older generation, who enjoy listening to the same songs they've heard over the years."

Rather than doing something drastic right off the bat, she's starting off with a softer approach of sharing snippets of the performances on platforms such as TikTok. Snippets from 5th Aug 2022 Getai! Thank you for coming Mr Shawn Huang, Mr Desmond Lee and Mr Xie Yao Quan! Appreciated much 😍 Like and Share! 🤩 #insyncbytravellers #getai #7thmonth #hungryghostfestival #fypsg #fyp ♬ original sound - InSync By Travellers

As for those in her age group who think that her job is far from their definition of cool, she has this nugget of wisdom to share:

"Actually, I think I'm the cool one, because I'm the only one [among my friends] doing it, and I love my job. That's what matters, right?"

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Top photos by Silvya Tan & InSync By Travellers