Alena Murang is on a mission to preserve the music of the Dayak tribe
Alena Murang is a singer-songwriter, sape player, and visual artist who is deeply passionate about preserving the Kelabit and Kenyah languages of Dayak tribe in Borneo. She established herself as one of the first women to play and teach the sape, a lute-like instrument that’s traditionally played by men.
Kuching-born musician and artist of Kelabit and Italian-English descent Murang started playing the sape at the age of 10. She has learned the tunes of the Kenyah and Kelabit tribes and presents them in a contemporary way. Like her ancestors, Murang draws inspiration from various elements of nature such as the sky, river, rain, wind, and rainforests and tells them through stories.
Having previously worked in management consulting, Murang made her debut as an artiste in 2016, and has since released numerous singles and albums, including Sky Songs and Flight. She has performed with the sape at numerous international conferences and showcases around the world like South by Southwest (SXSW), Paris Fashion Week, and Rudolstadt Festival.
The sape plays a central role in her music video Warrior Spirit, which won the Best Asia & Pacific Music Video. It also received an Honourable Mention for Best Costume at UK’s International Music Video Awards 2021. The video was also chosen as an Official Selection at the New York International Film Awards and is a semi-finalist for Best Film at the 2021 Los Angeles Film Awards.
Apart from singing and performing, she also conducts dance, singing, storytelling and sape workshops. She also started Kanid Studio, an organisation that works on projects centring around indigenous heritage and Sarawakian stories, with the aim of making it more mainstream.
Best Asia And Pacific Music Video (International Music Video Awards)
Honourable Mention For Best Costume (International Music Video Awards)
Best Styling Award (Buenos Aires Music Video Festival)
Did You Know?
Murang never formally studied music, but has been learning the dance, songs, and music from her elders to be a keeper of stories for her people.