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Malaysian artiste Alena Murang wins two UK awards for music video celebrating Sarawakian culture


The sape tune is inspired by Alena’s ancestor who was a warrior. — Picture via Instagram

PETALING JAYA –  Sarawakian singer-songwriter and sape player Alena Murang picked up two awards at the recent International Music Video Awards in the UK.

The Malaysian artiste took home the Best Asia & Pacific Music Video and Honourable Mention for Best Costume awards for her latest music video, Warrior Spirit.

She shares the awards with her cousin Sarah Lois Dorai who directed the stylish video clip.

The music video which premiered in late May also made it as a semi-finalist at the Best Film at the 2021 Los Angeles Film Awards and was named Official Selection at the New York International Film Awards.

The sape tune pays homage to Alena’s ancestor and tells the story of a warrior watching the mist rise on the morning of battle. “My great-great-great-grandfather Balang Nganud was a great warrior and the community called him ‘the Tiger that floats enemies’ heads downriver’,” Alena said in a recent statement to local media outlets.

“Though we no longer practise that anymore, we inherited their spirit, their courage, their strength, and moreover, the courage to fight together for something greater than ourselves.

“I think many Malaysians, and people across the world also, can relate to the spirit of the warrior,” she said.

Born in Kuching to a Kelabit father and English-Italian mother, Alena and her cousin Sarah are using music and film to keep their dying Bornean heritage alive.

The 32-year-old said she feels proud of the team who dedicated their time towards making the music video.

Warrior Spirit offers a visual experience of Borneo’s rich tribal history and culture, especially Sarawak by showcasing its traditional dance, music and costume.

The song is part of Alena’s new album Sky Songs which includes tunes sung in the endangered Kelabit language.

“It’s been a really rough period for people in film and music so it’s heart-warming to not just be able to achieve in creating this music video, but also have the added bonus of these international awards.

“We can do great things when we work together,” she said.

Sarah, who also directed Alena’s 2019 music video Midang Midang that won Best Styling at the 2020 Buenos Aires Music Video Festival, added that the awards reflected the growing awareness of indigenous cultures.

“The wins and selections at festivals only goes to show that there is an interest in the stories that we have to tell from our part of the world, and from indigenous communities.

“We hope that many more films from native voices will be financially supported in the future,” Sarah said.

Alena teamed up with Styllar, Saerah Ridzuan and other Malaysian designers and craftswomen, including renowned make-up artist Gebriel Padan to create the video.

“We wanted to showcase the beauty of our Bornean cultural heritage amplified by a fashion-forward aesthetic that speaks to the spirit of a modern warrior.

“I’m beyond ecstatic for the honourable mention from IMVA and I hope the world can appreciate the beauty of Borneo through this music video,” said Saerah, who is Alena’s stylist.


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