KUCHING, Jan 27: Sape songstress Alena Murang will be releasing a new single and music video titled ‘Meno’ on her YouTube channel this coming Friday (Jan 29).
‘Meno’ laments her yearning and longing for, and missing home, the longhouse and the people.
Alena, a descendant of the Dayak Kelabit people of the Baram river in Sarawak, recalled the days of the past when her ancestors used to make long journeys from the highlands to the coast of Miri to trade.
“They went by longboat through the rapids, and up through the dense jungle, sleeping at villages or in the jungle on the way. At times like these they would sing “belian meno” (wistful songs), a type of graceful song of yearning “Meno”, in Kenyah language, is an emotion of yearning, thinking of something or someone that is not there.
“In the recent years, I’ve been travelling internationally a lot, and I would always sing this song on stage, also thinking about how much I missed home at the time,” she explained in a publicity release today.
Alena has played at festivals like South by Southwest USA, Førde Traditional and World Music Festival (Norway) and OzAsia Festival (Australia).
Now that she is based in Kuala Lumpur and coupled by the inability to return home in the past year especially to her village due to Covid-19 restrictions, she shared it has had a greater impact on her than she would have thought.
“I ‘balik kampung’ (return to the village) 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, but for now we have to keep everybody, especially the interior areas, safe from the (Covid-19) virus,” she said.
The music video, edited by Sabah-based Kelabit filmmaker Candy Yik, used snippets of video of roads, rivers and villages in the interiors of Sarawak along the Ulu Baram River.
On recording and producing during Covid-19 times, Alena pointed out that it was a challenge, not impossible but “it just slows down the process a lot”.
“Meno” is the second single released in anticipation of her new album. The album recordings were supported by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia as part of the Roads To Our Heritage (RTOH) project, and the Dayak Cultural Foundation (DCF).
Meanwhile, DCF secretary to the Board of Trustees Libat Langub observed that the modern Dayak identity was strong through projects such as this music production by Alena in the midst of Sarawak’s development.
“We are proud of Alena and her team for their dedication in upholding the culture of Kenyah and Kelabit people through music and language.
“We hope that other young people will be inspired to similarly create, to learn and share the wealth of knowledge and beauty that lie in the many languages and cultures we have here,” he said.
The Kenyah language, spoken in Sarawak and Kalimantan, is of the Austronesian language
group and listed as an endangered language.
RTOH is a music project collaboration by three local Malaysian bands — Alena Murang, Estranged and Stonebay — to produce an album each as well as a six-episode documentary series featuring East Malaysian music heritage.
The project is supported by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia and funded under the ministry’s 2020 Digital Content Fund (DKD) for the creative industry.
Through this documentary series, the three bands together with music researcher Dr Nadia Widyawati Madzhi of University Teknologi Mara (UiTM)’s Music Faculty aim to reach out and tell the stories of the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, specifically traditional music craftsmen.
By sharing these stories told by the native heritage caretakers, they hope that this will generate interest as well as be a part of the preservation efforts towards East Malaysian culture and be shared across all ages, both locally and internationally. — DayakDaily