Heartlanders: Getai too sanitised these days
Next Sunday marks the end of the Hungry Ghost Month and with that, the intensive run of getai shows.
Of course, the shows will continue for the rest of the year at ad-hoc events and other Chinese festivals, albeit on a smaller scale.
Heartlanders, who have been following the getai circuit for years, say they have not seen reports of skimpily dressed performers or emcees who roll out vulgar jokes this year.
But not everyone seems happy with the turnaround.
Housewife Goh Mui San, 57, an avid getai fan, says she has noticed the shows have been less risque.
"Oh yes, there's still the regular jokes from (popular veteran hosts) Liu Lingling and Wang Lei," she says. "But not from the others who look quite happy to toe the line."
And that, she explains, is as good as watching any "ordinary variety show".
Madam Goh is not alone in her opinion - many fans over the past three weeks have been spouting similar sentiments.
Retiree Jackson Tan, 70, shares "another startling observation".
First, a disclaimer. "It's not that I am a 'chee ko pek' (Hokkien for dirty old man), but you know, how come these days the performers cover up so much?" he asks.
"It's less fun, you know?
"Last time, my mahjong kakis and I will catch a getai show and then make side bets to see which one will make it to the news the next night."
Herein lies the annual debate on whether getai organisers and performers should keep their acts clean.
They have to meet the public licensing rules or risk facing a fine of up to $10,000.
One organiser, who wants to be known only as Mr C, says he prefers to adhere to the rules and not get into trouble.
"If I have to pay the fine, it'd mean a cut of the profit margin, which isn't really that much in the first place," he reasons.
I spent my younger days fascinated by the psychedelic spectrum of lights, loud techno music and boisterous jokes of these shows - they all add to the colour of getai.
In recent years, the concerts have evolved into stage shows complete with LED screens, flashy costumes and singers who cover a repertoire that includes more than just Hokkien songs.
Yes, throw in Mandopop and Cantopop, even the occasional English hit.
It reflects progress, which is good of course, particularly if we are keen to attract a younger audience.
But here's a consideration: Do we want to lose the distinctive flavour of getai tradition?
It does not have to be uncouth and vulgar.
But it should be naughty and smart enough to allow the audience the chance to suss out the innuendos in the banter.
Take these away and the sanitised version is but another Taiwanese TV variety show.
Why not loosen up and party?
Let the cabaret play on in the heartland.