Alena Murang

Kelabit People

Long Peluan, Borneo Malaysia

“I think of what I do as an act of making our culture more relevant, rather than as preserving tradition. The latter, to me, has the notion of maintaining things in the past, whereas I see cultural heritage as the past made present.”

- Alena Murang

Alena Murang is a singer-song writer, sape’ player, visual artist, entrepreneur. She is one of the first women to openly perform with and teach the sape. She learns tunes from the Kenyah and Kelabit tribes which are fast fading and presents them in a contemporary way. She often conducts dance, singing, storytelling, and sape' workshops, as well as talks. She has performed and shared these dying art forms in USA, Korea, Europe and Malaysia, and has been featured on TV documentary as one of the future Arts leaders of the ASEAN region.

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Back in Feb' 2017 in Long Peluan...

Ever since we came across a youtube clip performed by Alena Murang, we fell in love with her voice and Sape', the instrument of Orang Ulu people. 

I still remember the first conversation we had via email, “Are you game to travel into the interiors?” she asked. I even remember the time when I opened google maps and couldn’t find the destinations we were talking about. We arrived in Long Peluan after few flights including a propeller planes and 4 hours of bumpy logging  4WD tracks. Welcomed by her beautiful family and a feast sourced from the jungle.

She decided to record and film by the river just across the longhouse because of her personal connection with it, also because the sound of the river inspired the rhythm of the sape'. She sung songs she learnt from Kelabit and Kenyah elders, accompanied by the gentle pure tones of her sape'. We had four wonderful days here, listening the rushing rivers and morning bird calls, as well as visited few other musicians. (and roosters!)

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