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Sarawakian songstress Alena Murang recently released a music video to her track, Midang Midang and boy we were blown away. From the music to the choreography to the creation of the 3 minute 27 second video, the work of art embodied the essence of Sarawak beautifully.
The track, part of Alena’s debut EP Flight which was released in 2016 (here’s a review of it), is an old Kelabit song passed down to her by grandaunty Tepu’ Ira. The song is usually sung at match-making and courtships.
The song is sung from the point of view of a young girl who observes how the season changes as she comes to terms with coming of age. Here’s the music video of the song released recently. Be sure to click on the subtitle feature to fully appreciate it.
Turns out, there’s more to the video than it meets the eye. We recently got in touch with Alena who shared with us seven reasons why her latest music video would make any Sarawakian proud.
“All of my outfits and accessories were by Sarawakian designers. They were inspired by the living experiences of Sarawakians and through these outfits, we wanted to draw attention to their artforms,” Alena tells Eksentrika.
Among the local designers that the musician collaborated with to create the many beautiful outfits in the music video were LANA, Maatin Shakir, Von Jolly Couture, Atelier Karl Jimmy,TeeCode, Wan Bynun, Neng Kho Razali, Raben Beads, and Tanoti. Music video director Sarah Lois had a hand in stylizing the outfits.
“As for the dancers, some were from Sarawak while others were sourced from other places,” Alena explains.
According to Alena, each film department was led by a Kelabit youth. There’s director, choreographer and stylist Sarah Lois, BTS video and photographer Candy Yik, music producer Joshua Maran, makeup artist Gebriel Padan, and dance coordinator Sarabhana Ulun who form the creative expressions of the indigenous Orang Ulu Sarawakian youth.
“All Kelabits are related, so it was special to work with my cousins and to allow each one to bring to the table their own expression of the heritage,” Alena reveals.
Alena says the Kelabit and Kenyah languages are among Malaysia’s endangered languages. These languages are part of the 80% of languages in Malaysia that will go extinct if nothing is done to preserve them.
There is that fear that the language could disappear in Alena’s lifetime since there are only some 4,000 speakers remaining. Through her music, and specifically Midang Midang, the musician aims to keep her culture, heritage, and language alive.
What you’re seeing in the music video is hours of hard work, not to mention months of preparation to bring the music video to life. Alena says the crew relied on a lot of faith and hope to get to their equipment and themselves to village of Bario to film the music video. And it was no easy feat.
“On a Twin Otter MASwings plane, the baggage allowance is 10kg each. Any additional baggage allowance is chargeable but depends on the total weight of the plane and this includes passengers body weight. The other option is a 14-hour drive off road, chartering several pick up trucks.”
“Another challenge we faced was that we were heavily shorthanded in terms of manpower as we were a six man production crew including the film director. Four made up the camera team alone,” Alena explains. She adds that this strategy was necessary as the team had to be as mobile as possible.
“This is because we had planned the shoot the music video in such a way that we hit at least three scenes a day, keeping the outdoor shots to dawn and dusk – which is a small window of light. We needed to work really fast.”
Luckily for the crew, they had some assistance from the good folks living in Bario who lent their hands to the team.
Alena explains that Sarah worked closely with the director of photography, Fabian Joseph, to bring out the beauty of the land and capture the essence of the song visually.
“In terms of shot composition and lighting, Fabian took the lead, whilst Sarah focused on talent direction, movement & styling. A film always looks better when there is room for collaboration because every team member brings a different expertise to the final product. That’s the magic of the film,” Alena explains.
If you, like us, found the scene of Alena emerging from the water surrounded by water lilies as beautiful, wait till you find out the miracle that happened in creating it.
According to Alena, the scene was filmed in a paddy field pond belonging to of Sarah’s grandaunt. Ponds of this nature are typically shallow and Alena was much too tall so the team had to dig a little hole in the pond for her to sit in so she was submerged at the right height.
The team had visited the spot a few months before the shoot but the lilies weren’t there during their recce.
“It was truly a blessing that they were in bloom when we came for shoot!” Alena exclaims, revealing that the crew stuck them in the ground around her to add the shot depth and colour.
“Things just fell beautifully into place.”
*** Cover image by Candy Yik.
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