Project Ranih – promoting Kelabit folksongs

Alena on her sape – preserving kelabit tradition and arts.

KUCHING: Alena Murang is no stranger to making waves – promoting Sarawak’s traditional culture to the rest of the world through music and art.

Standing in the forefront as Sape’ songstress, the half Kelabit multitalented artiste is on a mission to promote Kelabit folksongs and nursery rhymes and further ‘harvest’’ interest and a love for Kelabit traditional culture among the younger generations through ‘Project Ranih’.

“Joshua Maran and I are so excited to finally launch this project of harvesting children’s songs and rhymes from our Kelabit traditions.

“Project Ranih which means ‘the act of harvesting’ is the first project of its kind, documenting Kelabit oral traditions of children’s songs and rhyme.

Project Ranih – documenting Kelabit oral tradition of children folksongs and rhyme.

“We are making them accessible and free, on a user-friendly website to encourage young parents to sing the folksong and the nursery rhymes to their children as a way to spark interest and strengthen family values,” she told New Sarawak Tribune recently.

Alena wants Kelabit children to be exposed to these old folksongs at a very young age to ensure that the tradition will not become extinct as well as to promote sustainable living.

“We birthed the idea in 2016 after my first album launch and well, to be honest, we’re working on a shoestring budget for this one, slowly but surely.

“So today here we are four years later,” she said.

The folklore songs and nursery rhymes were curated upon how they were done by the community.

“Our first set of songs – the song of children fishing for their family; of different types of cucumbers placed in different types of baskets; songs that teach children community values – are all sung by Professor Dr Ramy Bulan and Datin Sri Garnette Jalla Ridu.

“The recording session was filled with laughter and they were full of joy when recalling moments of their own childhood, and moments of when they sang to their children.

Professor Dr Ramy Bulan (left) and Datin Sri Garnette Jalla Ridu and during the recording session.

“My father and aunty too, used to sing me one or two of the Kelabit nursery rhymes, especially the ‘Uu ang’ song.

“I remember vividly the moment where I’d be sitting on my father’s feet while he swings me up and down.

“My mother too, would join and sang with him even though she is not Kelabit,” Alena shared.

Children folksongs have remained instrumental for the Kelabit community, and thus, the conservation of the oral tradition, she stressed, must be done hand-in-hand with the whole community.

“The long term plan is to raise funds to continue updating the archive, and hopefully to support other communities to collect their children’s songs too,” she added.

The project is being supported by the Foundation of Endangered Languages, in collaboration with Malaysia Design Archive and Momentum Studios Sdn Bhd.

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