Listen: Alena Murang keeps Sarawak's Kenyah language in the spotlight

Sarawakian musician/artist Alena Murang’s new single Meno’ is the perfect soundtrack for anyone who can’t travel home under the new lockdown.

Meno’, which means a feeling of yearning for someone or something in the Kenyah language, can be viewed now on Alena’s Youtube channel.

This is the second single leading up to Alena's new yet-to-be-named album. The first single, called Gitu’an, was released last July.

“Lyrics of this song in particular talk about missing the longhouse and the community. I think many people around the world know this feeling right now, with the travel restrictions and all, ” says Alena, 31, a Kuching-born KL-based sape (traditional lute) player, who continues to bridge traditional culture and pop mainstream scenes with her music.

She shares that during long journeys made by her ancestors from the highlands to the coast of Miri to trade, they would sing Belian Meno’, a folk song of yearning.

“In the past year, the inability to return home, especially to the kampung, has had a greater impact on me than I would’ve thought.

“I balik kampung at least twice a year to see the family, to reconnect with the land, to do research, and it really grounds me. I really miss it and I can’t wait to go back, ” says Alena, who has Kelabit and Italian-English parentage.

In talking about the music video, which she co-directed with Din Hormatov (rhythm guitarist from Malaysian alternate rock band Estranged), Alena says “we wanted the audience to feel a sense of longing and nostalgia, a breadth of familiar faces and places that feel like home through this song.”

Parts of the music video, which were edited by Sabah-based Kelabit filmmaker Candy Yik, include field trip footage from Kampung Long Lellang and Long Sabai in Ulu Baram, Sarawak.

Alena’s upcoming new album is supported by the Dayak Cultural Foundation and the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia as part of the Roads To Our Heritage (RTOH) music project. It is funded under the ministry’s Digital Content Fund.

The project is a collaboration between East Malaysian bands Estranged and Stonebay and Alena. They will produce an album each as well as a six episode documentary series.

They will be accompanied by music researcher Dr Nadia Widyawati Madzhi from UiTM’s music faculty. Together, they will aim to tell the stories of Sabah and Sarawak's traditional music craftsmen.

RTOH will be aired as a television documentary series on RTM.

“To me, this documentary is important because I want to continue to inspire people to look into our heritage and to really learn more about it and apply it into our lives.

"How cool would that be. There are documentaries out there on our heritage music but I’m particularly excited about this one because the audience will get to experience it from the lens of musicians themselves, ” says Alena.

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