GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia - The demand for scantily-clad ko tai (stage show) singers during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival - due to begin on Tuesday - has not been affected by calls for it to be replaced by opera and cultural shows.
A stage show agent here said the Phor Thor (Hungry Ghost Festival) committees were still requesting for "hot" singers.
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"I already have some 30 bookings for the shows," he said, adding that those who complained that the showgirls were dressed too sexily were hypocrites.
"When we show them pictures of the singers, the comments we get are 'not hot enough' or 'not sexy' - they want singers who can dance suggestively," he said in an interview yesterday.
The agent, who has been in the business for more than 20 years and represents some 50 singers, said his company was just catering to the organisers' demand.
On the singers' attire, the agent said: "We tell the singers not to wear outfits that are too revealing but ultimately, it is up to them."
On Monday, Phor Thor committees in Penang were advised to opt for Chinese operas instead of sexy showgirls.
Penang Teong Guan Association adviser Datuk Lim Yam Koi said the Tai Su Yeah or King of Hades certainly did not fancy scantily dressed singers.
Several non-governmental organisations, cultural bodies and politicians have since echoed the call.
Whatever the preference of the King of Hades, the audience prefer the sexier version.
Robert Ling, 63, a coffee shop owner, admitted that he liked such performances.
"Ko tai attract a younger crowd. I watch Chinese opera shows but these ko tai singers are very talented - it's just a different form of entertainment.
"I don't see any harm if they enjoy dressing up in modern clothes as long as they are not disrespectful to the deity," he said.
Rifle Range (Block C and D) Phor Thor committee chairman Jimmy Ooi also said there was "nothing wrong" with such performances.
He said although the committee held only cultural shows since 1969 as they wanted to stick to tradition, they did not want to tell other committees what to do.
"If other Phor Thor committees want to have ko tai performances, it is their choice, we should not tell others what to do. As long as these ko tai singers are not naked, there is nothing wrong.
"However, there should be some modesty because this is a religious festival," he said.
The festival is held in the belief that spirits enjoy a "holiday" when the gates of hell open on the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar, allowing them to roam the world of humans.
-The Star/Asia News Network