When I was much younger, I had no idea what getais were about. I would go along if my parents brought me. This one time was memorable. The stage was set up just under my block, and I vaguely remembered it didn’t have a huge set-up, or singers with elaborate costumes like those I saw in the movie “881”. Maybe it wasn’t that profitable in my area. Whatever it was, they ran out of gigs for the night and the emcee decided to open the stage to the public for anyone who would like to go up and sing. My parents egged me on. Partly because they’d heard me sing karaoke at home regularly to the oldies they bought, and partly because I think my dad wanted to have fun with me. In retrospect, he said he didn’t think I would do it. I must have been about 10, 11 or 12 years old.
I’m no stranger to performing on stage, because I’ve always been part of school acts since kindergarten. In primary school, I even came up with cheesy choreography to Disney theme songs and performed with my classmates to the entire school on special occasions. But I’ve never sung on stage before. Still it didn’t bother me and I didn’t think it was going to be any different from what I’d done before. I bravely asked the music guy if he had my favourite song, and he did. Oblivious to how I would sound, or what people would think, I went on stage, dressed in T-shirt and shorts and slippers, and sang 《我这样爱你到底对不对》(Is it right for me to love you?). Come to think of it, it must have looked quite funny, a little girl singing an adult love song! But there was absolutely no pressure, and thankfully also no boos that night.
Thinking back to those days, it seems like growing up somehow destroyed that part of me that would just go ahead and do something without worrying about other people’s judgements. I never really had stage fright, but now as an adult the stakes are higher. Every public performance is fraught with concerns from everyone involved and inevitable stress arises. So much so that it can take away the fun of entertaining.
It’s been many years since that maiden stage singing experience, so naturally I was scared out of my wits for last weekend’s performance for POSSE at Plaza Singapura. You might think that after so many years of being in this industry, such performances are nothing unusual, I’m telling you, experience doesn’t make it any less unnerving. For many years, I’ve had more people discourage me from public singing than prod me supportively like my parents did back then. Discouragement breeds fear and insecurity. Maybe it’s in our Asian culture not to “lose face”, but the obsession with preserving “face” comes at the expense of shattering personal confidence.
When I went to see my teacher, my cracked confidence showed in my performance. I was too afraid and couldn’t simply let go and trust my own voice. She had to tell me not to beat myself up based on demoralising comments given to me by people who weren’t necessarily in a better position to comment. It sounded a bit harsh when I first heard it, but that’s the kind of person she is. She won’t leave me any mercy if it is the truth. I was reminded once again to be discerning to what others say. The odds will always be against us, but it is what we make of it.
Last Saturday, I went up on stage and sang “Love Story”, in spite of much deterrence. I am almost relieved to have gone ahead with it. I want to be true to the people who were there to support me and it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t pitch perfect (I’m not trying to sell albums here), because I know I gave my best.
Sure, there will always be room for improvement. That way, we all have something to look forward to next time. 🙂