Nothing is too outlandish for Getai singers

Nothing is considered too outlandish for Sam Loo.

SINGAPORE - Step into Sam Loo's four-room HDB flat in Tampines and your eyes are instantly drawn to the bags of cumbersome-looking items lined up against a wall in the living room.

The bags hold his headgear - they are elaborate - and each one complements a costume.

The getai veteran ushers you into one room, pushes open a wardrobe door and you are nearly blinded by the kaleidoscope of colours.

We don't count the number of costumes hanging from the poles inside the custom-made wardrobe that covers one full wall, but Loo, 50, helpfully estimates that there are easily 100 pieces. They are his "stock" of costumes that he has been using for just over five to six months.

Unlike another getai veteran Liu Ling Ling, who stashes her more than $150,000 wardrobe in a warehouse inside an industrial park, Loo sells the "old" costumes.

He says: "I don't have that much space and I don't usually wear one outfit more than 10 times.

"Fans may catch us at various shows, so it's not nice if we repeat the costumes."

Every five to six months , Loo will post on his Facebook account to indicate that he is clearing stock.

Getai singers from Malaysia and Indonesia, who are on his friends' list, will pounce on that to buy them at half the price.

This getai season, Loo made two trips to Bangkok, where he had 20 costumes made just for the month-long festivities.

That's on top of the three to four trips he usually makes to replenish the wardrobe.

He spends between $200 and $1,300 on each outfit, and another $100 to $200 for courier services.

Nothing is too outlandish for the flamboyant Loo, who won the Best Costume Award at Stomp's Getai Awards in 2011 and 2009.

Another performer, Yuan Jin, who is in her 30s, smiles and admits that while she loves bright colours, her costumes are nowhere as flamboyant.

Yuan Jin, better known as Little Teresa Teng for her delivery of the late singer's songs, "orders" her costumes ahead of the seventh-month celebrations from three tailors - one in China, one in Malaysia and another in Thailand.

She says: "In the past, some of us (getai performers) will end up going to the same tailor and that means, in some ways, the costumes ended up looking similar either in design or concept.

"Can't really blame the seamstress, but I wanted to avoid going on the stage with someone wearing a costume that looks pretty much alike."

She draws inspiration from two forms, depending on the image she is adopting for a show.

"When I go into the Teresa Teng mode, the costumes I wear are mostly designed with the late singer's wardrobe in mind," she says.

She can spend up to $1,000 on one costume.

Katherine Tan, better known as Kaiqing, 18, usually made four to five costumes in the past.

But she has doubled that this year.

She says: "The previous ones, made by a home-based seamstress in Singapore, cost more."

This year, she switched to a tailor in Penang about two months before the seventh lunar month.

At this tailor, recommended by getai organiser Aaron Tan, it costs about $200 a piece - about half the price she pays the local tailor.

Tan's costumes are usually inspired by her favourite Taiwanese singers, Jolin Tsai and Elva Hsiao.

Newcomer Toh En Hui, 11, prepared for her first seventh-month getai performance by getting four costumes tailored in Johor Baru.

Her mother, Madam Yan Chiew Hong, 40, says En Hui was given one costume by her mentor Wang Lei. Loo had also bought one from Bangkok for her daughter.

She does not really impose any restriction on what En Hui wears, as long as it's not too mature-looking.

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