Global Spotlight Shines on Sarawakian Artist After Winning Big at UK’s International Music Video Awards

Feature Image courtesy of Saerah Ridzuan
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Alena Murang and cousin Sarah Lois Dorai win two awards for their music video, Warrior Spirit, and deliver a surge of pride to Sarawak and Malaysia

Borneo-born Alena Murang has made quite a name for herself in recent years with her artistry of singing in the endangered Sarawakian languages of Kelabit and Kenyah. Being of the Dayak Kelabit tribe, Alena became the first woman to play the sape’, a traditional lute instrument made in Borneo that was previously only reserved for male healers of the community.

Alena Murang | Image Credit: Saerah Ridzuan

Paying homage to her roots and cultural influences, Murang’s performances are a journey of both past and present, richly flavoured with the stories of her ancestors. As well as singing in her native tongue, Murang is also a dancer, sape’ teacher, and visual artist.


Earning international recognition, Alena Murang and cousin Sarah Lois Dorai’s music video titled Warrior Spirit, won the Best Asia & Pacific Music Video, and also received an Honourable Mention for Best Costume.

Warrior Spirit, was co-produced by Alena’s own production company Kanid Studio along with Project Room, has been selected as a semi-finalist for the “Best Film” category at the 2021 Los Angeles Film Awards, and as an “Official Selection” at the New York International Film Awards.

Sarawak-made music video wins big at UK's International Music Video Awards
Warrior Spirit | Image Credit: Sarah Lois Dorai / Alena Murang

“Warrior Spirit, shows the strength within. We come from a line of warriors and heroes,” Alena said of the video which was released on YouTube on May 27, 2021 as part of her album Sky Songs.

Both Alena and Sarah have expressed that by incorporating their cultural influences into music and filmmaking, the intention has always been to raise more awareness on Borneo’s dying heritage that consists of hundreds of indigenous subcultures.

“My great-great-great-grandfather Balang Nganud was a great warrior, the community called him ‘the Tiger that floats enemies’ heads downriver’. Though we no longer practice that anymore, we inherited their spirit, their courage, their strength; and moreover, the courage to fight together for something greater than ourselves. I think many Malaysians, and people across the world also, can relate to the spirit of the warrior,” Alena added.

Image Credit: Sarah Lois Dorai / Alena Murang

The entire video, from the music to dance and costume takes inspiration from the diverse cultures of Borneo, specifically Sarawak. The video wouldn’t have been made possible without the keen eye of Styllar, Saerah Ridzuan, renowned make-up artist Gebriel Padanm, and Malaysian designers and craftswomen.

“The wins and selections at festivals only goes to show that there is an interest in the stories that we have to tell from our part of the world, and from indigenous communities. We hope that many more films from native voices will be financially supported in the future,” said video co-director Sarah.

Alena Murang – Warrior Spirit (Official Music Video)

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