The Moneymakers: Getai singers, Bao Bei Sisters

This getai sister duo once had a getai organiser threaten to return their unpaid wages in “hell notes”

The Bao Bei sisters

The Moneymakers:

Bao Bei Sisters, Teresa Ong (right), 35 and Tracy, 33 have been charming getai audiences for close to two decades. The pair also sings and hosts weddings and D&Ds. In recent years, they’ve branched out to the small screen (Ch 8’s GeTai Challenge, which recently won Best Variety Program at the Star Awards) and the big screen (Royston Tan’s 881 and 12 Lotus). They now look set to conquer the theatre world. The sisters are starring in Ge Tai — The Musical, about the local getai scene from the ’80s to present day.

THEIR HOME IS: Both sisters are married. Teresa stays in a four-room flat in Bukit Purmei with her family, two dogs and a maid. Tracy stays in a four-room flat in Punggol with her husband and one dog.

THEIR RIDE IS: If their husbands are not free to drive them around, they either hail a cab or pay a friend to chaffeur them.

WHAT’S IN THEIR WALLETS: Both carry identical Gucci wallets that hold their credit, debit and membership cards. The sisters each carry about $20 cash to use in case of emergencies.

8 DAYS: What’s your secret to getai longevity?
TRACY ONG: You must have thick skin.

TERESA ONG: A lot of people think that getai is a very easy job ’cos all you have to do is sing and wear nice clothes. But there’s a lot more to it. You have to be friendly to everyone, including your enemies. In Ge Tai – The Musical, there’s a line: “In getai, there are humans. And there are ghosts.” This person might be friends with you today but tomorrow, he might backstab you. You never know. One day, I might have to be the bad guy to survive.

How so?
TERESA: The local industry is so small. But yet, there are a lot more overseas singers coming in. So, sometimes, in order to survive, you cannot be too friendly or else people will step all over you.

TRACY: Not long ago, I had an unhappy incident with a junior. She would gush about how good I was in front of me. But behind my back, she would say, “She’s so old.” I’ve learnt how to draw a line and not be nice to everyone.

Have you encountered any money disputes?
TRACY: Yes, some getai organisers don’t pay us. There was one who owed us money but he suddenly passed away so we didn’t get paid.

TERESA: He actually owes a lot of getai singers money. At that time, we were only 18 or 19 and we were paid $120 for each gig then. He owed us about $2,000. Now, we get paid $200 per gig.

TRACY: I once waited five years for a getai organiser to return the $1,800 he owed me. He paid it bit by bit.

What’s the biggest sum anyone has ever owed you?
TRACY: Most getai organisers are not rich ’cos they love gambling and are in debt, so they tend to borrow money from getai singers. At that time, our father managed our money and he’s the sort who can’t say “no” to anyone. So he kept lending money to people. I won’t name names ’cos some of them are still around. After my father passed away, we didn’t ask for any of it back. There’s this organiser who owes my father a few thousand dollars. Someone took pity on us and asked him to return us the money.

TERESA: He said he’ll return us the money, but in the form of hell notes. Actually, my father told us not to get the money back ’cos the guy claimed he needed it to pay his daughter’s school fees.

TRACY: The best thing is he can still renovate his house. He even has a maid.

TERESA: Did we make it too obvious?

TRACY: No, he won’t read 8 DAYS ’cos he doesn’t know English. It’s been over 10 years but whenever we see him, we’ll still put on a bright smile. He still hires us to sing. Why say “no” to money?

What was your last impulse buy?
TERESA: I once got Tracy to buy me a very simple top with diamonds on it.

TRACY: It was fake crystals. That stupid tank top cost me $90!

TERESA: We could have gotten the same top from Taobao for $9 (laughs).

TRACY: I now wear it to sleep or to buy groceries.

Ge Tai — The Musical runs till May 29 at Resorts World Sentosa. Tix from Sistic.

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