Thursday, May 22, 2014

NYP’s Twin Singing Sensations Still Going Strong

My classmates are the twin Getai-singing sisters from Nanyang Polytechnic’s Diploma in Mass Media Management, Thien Jia Jia and Si Si. Yes, they are special.

These sisters have many talents – they started out as getai singers and later took up acting stints as well. (A ‘getai’ is a live stage performance.)

In fact, they were kind enough to squeeze in some time, from their very busy schedules, for me while they were preparing for the finals of the Global Hokkien Singing Competition 2014 by SingTel Mio TV, which happened on 17 May.

They’re hard workers in and out of the classroom, and as they practised their dance routine for their competition performance, I saw how much they enjoy what they do.

If you have seen them in the movie, Ah Boys to Men, you would never have realised they originally started out as getai singers. Being twins made them stand out in the movie. I asked them how they got into acting.

Si Si: We didn’t have any real lessons, but our mentor who’s a getai veteran has a good relationship with Jack Neo. And at that point, they were looking for young cast members but could not find any suitable ones. So we gave it a shot and he picked us.

Jia Jia: We were actually unsure if we were good enough. But there weren’t many lines to memorise, or even a script; and they thought we were just fine. They didn’t even think of having twins in the movie!

Would you go back to acting again?

Si Si: It was a valuable experience since it was our first time acting. It was also really different from performing for Getai. For Getai, we would just sing and see how the audience reacts, but for the movie, we had to really act out what the director wanted.

Jia Jia: We had a lot of No Good (NG) shots (laughs). Though it was seriously stressful, if the chance came again I would definitely grab it. I am more passionate about singing, but acting is definitely worth another try.

Both: Life is short. Try everything while you can!

And they solemnly believe that. As I asked them more about Getai, I saw their eyes light up and they became nostalgic. They recounted the time they started singing in Getai when they were just 15.

Tell me more about your Getai experiences.

Si Si: Actually we started singing when we were 13. We were in the choir in primary school and we realised how much we love to sing. Later we ventured out to look for schools to attend to hone our skills

Jia Jia: I didn’t really enjoy my time in school. So when I went into Getai, I started to have a new outlook on life. We found a lot of charity events, like the old folks’ homes and National Kidney Foundation to perform for. It made everything more meaningful and enjoyable.

What is the best thing about being in a Getai?

Jia Jia: Definitely singing for charity. I feel happier because they seem like they actually appreciate our singing. They would applaud, smile, shake hands; and even give such sweet compliments. I would love to perform for charities more often; it gives you a real sense of satisfaction. For other performances, people get to watch for free and they tend to criticise you.  Despite that, we won an award once!

Si Si: Yeah, it happened a year into the getai industry. There were different categories like Best Newcomer and Top 10 Most Welcomed Singers, which we were both nominated for. This was organised by the Chinese newspapers.

People who bought the newspapers would fill in a form to vote for the artistes they liked the most. So when we found out we won the Top 10 we were so happy!

Jia Jia: Even though we started off with really terrible singing, in our first year we tried our hardest and made improvements which people recognised. We felt that we really shouldn’t give up.

So, for the past couple of years, did you visit anything interesting places to sing?

Jia Jia: Lots! We went to the Institute of Mental Health - that was one I could never forget. I was afraid of how the audience might react to us. My mentor said it was going to be fine, so it was. We went to many other places, experiencing highs and lows.

We got freebies too, during different times of the year. At flea markets, there were free samplings, goodie bags with Chinese New Year oranges, moon cakes, and we got dumplings during other festivals.

Si Si: The more memorable experiences include the Ang Mo Kio police headquarters and our first overseas trip to Indonesia, which was sponsored. The Indonesians were extremely welcoming. When we ended our performance, it was around midnight and the boss brought us out for supper and gave us red packets! We even sat by the sea.
Si Si (in black), Jia Jia (in white) 
How did you cope so well with your studies and other commitments?

Si Si: We give and take. Sometimes we have to sacrifice time spent with family and friends.

Jia Jia: When we first started it was super stressful. In order for us to cope we literally replaced our leisure time with our studies. We would finish work and yet still have to do revision for exams. Studies always came first. Sleeping hours were also cut down.

Si Si: During the weekend we do get to sleep more. It’s like a cycle. The Hungry Ghost Festival is of course the period when we have the most packed schedule. But we have our mom as our manager and she really takes good care of us. Without her we really couldn’t cope well, she’s a really big help.

Outside of singing, do you have any other hobbies?

Jia Jia: Drawing and baking.

Si Si: When I feel low, I like to go to the beach to unwind.

Jia Jia: Recently we picked up dancing.

Si Si: It’s our newest interest right now.

I also got a chance to see them rehearse their dance moves.

How did you get so good doing what you do?

Both: Practice makes perfect. It requires a lot of memory work but you just need to put in effort. You also have to enjoy yourself. Never give up and pursue your dreams.

Jia Jia: I felt like I didn’t get the chance to act or sing when I was younger but I never wanted to give up hope. For those of you with singing or acting aspirations, I would tell anyone to hold on to your dreams. And one fine day, you just might be discovered.

Tell me more about your competition

Jia Jia: We didn’t really prepare for this competition for long. Our mentor wanted us to give it a shot.

Si Si: Since we’ve been singing for close to four years it was good to find out where we stood.

Now that the Global Hokkien Singing Competition 2014 is over, I’m pleased to announce that Jia Jia and Si Si got into the top eight spots. This entitles them to represent Singapore in the regional round in Taiwan, where they will compete with 60 other international participants. We wish them all the best!

By Jade Teo, Year 2, Diploma in Mass Media Management
For 18 years, Jade has been tirelessly working on ways to cure “boredom”. She tried watching chefs like Nigella Lawson on TV, creating a solar-powered boat with little success, taking a literature trip to UK with friends, riding in the front seat of an ambulance and a fire truck; but nothing worked as well as her first adventure - writing. Without it and her books, she wouldn’t have been cured.

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