Music video by Sarawak musician gives old song new life

KUCHING - In celebration of her heritage, Sarawakian musician Alena Murang is making the first Kelabit music video to bring new life to an old song called Re Lekuah.

Alena, who plays the sape and sings, learned Re Lekuah from several women elders in Bario after first hearing it sung by one of them in 2015.

Although it's an old song about the hard work young women have to do in the village, she felt that it was also rich in figurative meaning for contemporary urban life.

"My journey in music began with the purpose of preserving and reviving old songs. In the last few years it has developed into showcasing the relevance of old songs in modern times.

"For example, the work of planting and harvesting food, collecting water, a desire for valuable beads.

"In an urban setting, we are still working to get our food and drink and shelter, and often desire certain objects of value that represent status," she said.

Alena, 28, who is part-Kelabit, said Re Lekuah is her first music video project, and the first in Kelabit.

Canadian filmmaker Ashley Duong directed the video, which also features Sarawakian contemporary dancer Raziman Sarbini.

Alena connected with Duong, who happened to be in Malaysia earlier this year, on the idea of making the music video to show heritage art forms in a contemporary setting.

"Ashley e-mailed me the idea two weeks before she arrived in Kuala Lumpur.

"We met and developed the narrative, built a team, scouted venues, worked out props in three days and shot in two days.

"I never really had the time to be excited because we were always in the process of getting things done.

"But yes, I'm excited to see the outcome," she said.

Alena said the main production team, including Duong and herself, put in their own resources and received some funding from the Canadian High Commission for the video.

For the final push, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo this month, which will run until Nov 1.

Funds received from the campaign will go towards work to complete the video, such as picture editing, online editing and mixing the music track.

To complement the video, Duong is directing a documentary called Ngerang, about the experiences of rural and urban Kelabit youths.

Ngerang, which is supported by the Canadian Council for the Arts and the Canadian High Commission, will also provide some insights into the music video.