The Song Collector: a Kickstarter-Backed Film Documentary on the Struggle to Preserve Culture

What happens when modernization threatens to exterminate a 1,000-year-old culture? Sometimes, but not always, an activist emerges to stand in the face of adversity and preserve the culture for generations to come. In the Ladakh region of India, Morup Namgyal is one such activist, and a film project currently funding on Kickstarter aims to help him tell his story.

When Ladakh was incorporated into the Indian state in 1947, after surviving for over 1,000 years as a Buddhist kingdom, it became obvious that the effects of modernization would soon work the Ladakhi culture out of the region. To combat this cultural wipeout, Namgyal began touring the villages of his homeland and documenting their folk songs. Over the past 40 years Namgyal has archived Ladakh’s music and photographed his people, leaving behind a record rich in Ladakh’s cultural history.

the lamdon school children

More than archive Ladakh’s folk music, though, the Ladakhi people need to find a way to keep their culture going in the face of modern changes. That’s where The Song Collector, a documentary on Namgyal’s work currently seeking funds on Kickstarter, comes in.

Over seven trips in the past five years, filmmaker Erik Koto has been shooting Namgyal’s work, the music of Ladakh and interviews with cultural leaders of the region to produce The Song Collector. The film explores what it’s like to be a social activist in a Buddhist culture and the struggles to preserve a culture in the face of modernization. Now, through funding from Kickstarter backers, Koto will be able to hire a professional editor and sound mixer to edit his film and fund a five-city world tour with Namgyal to kick of the distribution of the film.

To date 96 backers have pledged over $47,000 toward the campaign’s $25,000 goal.

To learn more about The Song Collector or to back the film, check out the video below or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

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