FROM A YOUNG
IN JUNGLE VILLAGES
TO BEING A PIONEER AS A WOMAN MUSICIAN PLAYING SAPE
An Artist – painter, musician, dancer. But also a social entrepreneur, a voice of the past traditions to the present societies, a link between the East and the West, the Nature and the City. Alena has a true art of bringing together elements coming from different horizons. Born in Borneo, from a Malaysin father and an English/Italian mother, graduated from Manchester, she now lives in Kuala Lumpur.
Around 6 years old, she learnt the traditional dance of Sarawak, in Borneo. A little bit later she decided, with some cousins, to learn the sape’, (make sure to add a flying coma each time after the word sape’), a traditional lute of the Kenyah – she was one of the first girl to play this instrument. After being graduated from Manchester Business School, she leaves a corporate job, to follow her call for being a voice, a stories keeper of the Borneo people – she was in her early 20s.
In 2015 she founder ART4, fostering positive social and environment impact throught arts. Her first EP comes in 2016, and her songs and music went around several world festivals. In 2017, she was a youth representative at the UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris, and UNESCO Asia-Pacific for her work in intangible cultural heritage.
In 2021, she releases two songs, that we find absolutely beautiful. She also started Kanid Studio, replacing ART4 Studio, intending to make heritage contemporary and relevant, with activity grounded around indigenous Dayak culture.
AGE OF CREATIVES & ALENA MURANG
I would spend long, long hours painting and painting and painting. And it came to a point where they were like things in my head that I really wanted to paint, but I just couldn’t technically do it. And I just thought, I really just want to go to art school. I’ve always wanted to go to art school. I saved enough money. I quit the day I got promoted and went to art school in Singapore just for 10 months. That was what we could afford.
Preserving Means Evolving.
Because for me, preserving is great for archiving. But, you know, sometimes it’s sometimes quite often indigenous peoples or native peoples are presented in a certain way that’s primitive maybe, or you expect to see them wear a certain kind of things. But in reality, you know, I’m my generation was the first to be born outside of the rainforest. And we’re modern people. We listen to MTV like everybody else. And at the same time, we’re very strongly rooted in our community and in our values and very strongly connected to our village and longhouse as well. So I think now my approach is more as an artist and my artistic approach is to just show that we are who we are and we’re keeping things relevant and alive.
Sometimes we have we have an audience of twenty thousand people. And I think that people are just six thousand people. That’s the number of people that get to listen to our stories and listen to our language and listen to our music is far greater than the number of people ourselves. And for me, that’s what keeps the stories in the language alive. It’s when people listen.
I was talking to a cellist, a cello player from Germany, and she was showing how, you know, hundreds of years ago, the cello kind of went through the same process and is now standardized. I didn’t think about it until she mentions it made me think maybe, I don’t know, 50, 100 years from now, maybe there’ll be a standardized Sape out there.
It’s called Sky Songs, and it’s a reflection of how our great ancestors used to live in the skies. And they would have homes up there. They would have battles and wars up there. But they also lived on Earth. So they would travel through a big waterfall and have a life on earth. And each song actually just so happened to be themed around the sky. So we have to which is about the stars.