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Alena Murang

Alena Murang holds the distinction of being the world’s first professional female sape’ player. Traditionally, the sape’, a lute instrument from the highland tribes of Borneo, was exclusively played by men. In an era when this art form was on the brink of disappearing, Alena embarked on her sape’ journey under the guidance of sape’ master Mathew Ngau.

Alena’s repertoire includes singing in the endangered Kenyah and Kelabit languages, and she has taken these ancestral songs to over 20 countries, including Iceland, Australia, Thailand, and the USA. Additionally, she is a visual artist whose creations draw inspiration from her Dayak Kelabit heritage, and her artwork has been exhibited in various locations such as Taiwan, Kuching, and Kuala Lumpur.

Alena’s creative process is deeply intentional, rooted in the Kelabit stories of her community. Her art isn’t merely about preserving heritage; instead, it is about breathing life into it in contemporary times—through music, art, dance, fashion, and film. She is also a co-founder of Project Ranih, an online archive of Kelabit children’s songs.

Music possesses a profound ability to connect with people’s souls, and at the core of Alena’s work lies the mission of preserving endangered cultures because they encapsulate vital lessons and values. By sharing music and stories from her indigenous heritage, Alena aspires to kindle healing within her listeners, instill a love for the natural environment, foster a deeper understanding of minority cultures, and inspire others to embody and pass on the values embedded in oral traditions.

Making an impact involves the ability to touch people’s hearts and inspire change or healing from within. With better individuals, I firmly believe that the world can become a better place.

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