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Concert for Diversity: A dream for peaceful co-existence

It was 9 o’clock after dark. Everyone was in a trance-like state. The music was palpable throughout the air. Madol was playing on stage, while some were dancing on the front- all the other pairs of eyes were glued to them.

This is a scene from “Concert for Diversity” (Boichitrer Oikotan) organized by the Partnership for a Tolerant, Inclusive Bangladesh Project of UNDP under the Bokultola, Institute of Fine Arts. It was a true celebration of diversity. Not only the concert had bands from a lot of Bangladeshi ethnicities, but it also had two all-female bands owning up the stage.

The event started off with Rho Sangskritik Dol’s performance. Then came up the all-female minor ethnic band F-minor, who covered a wide range of songs, and got the audience up on their feet. By the time F-minor got down, the bokultola started to fill up, even the last seats were being taken up. Five thorn wings took the stage following F-minor. They started by explaining their songs which were all written in Khasia language. Their rock-sound filled up the air, all the while they were crooning to us about the struggle of their existence. They left with a deafening round of applause from the audience.

During the breaks between performances, people went to the side of the stage to fiddle with the folk music instruments that came from all corners of the country to be put on display, along with other handicrafts which were on sale for the event. The city- dwellers, especially the kids, were overwhelmed by them.

After Five Thorn Wings came the Bangla Band named Bangla 5 which already has its own fan-followers who also kept the slightly chilled weather warm with their support. They were followed by the second and final all-female band of the event, Kremlin. They geared the audience up again with their upbeat, funky music- their rendition of 4 non-blondes “what’s up” got people moving in and out of their chairs. Sacrament blew the whole crowd away with their very own diverse playlist full of Bengali, English, Garo and other songs and their charismatic persona.

One of the most vivid examples of diverse performance was from the Santal band called Sengel. All the members dressed up to the occasion in their traditional dresses, headdresses and flower arrangements while having a mixed set-up of desi and modern musical instruments. They sang and danced about their folklore, their traditions and, also their struggles. By then, the dancing crowd in the front of the stage grew even larger and the whole place turned into one big, heart-warming party where the diversity was not dividing, rather it bound them all together in celebration.

After the whirlwind of Sengel, Meghdol took the stage and calmed the hyped audience down with Shibu and Shoaib’s engulfing voice and the band’s kaleidoscopic tune.

The night ended with the headlining performer, the indigenous band Madol ruling the stage unanimously. Their strong words and trance-like music played the whole audience like puppets. The crowd was as engrossed with the indigenous band Madol as they were for the Dhaka-centric band Meghdol.

The aura of the whole scenario was something else. Even in the regular setting to celebrate “diversity”, there’s always a very significant and specific bubble of “woke” people present. But the case was completely different in Charukola as people from all sphere of life stopped to appreciate the music. Rickshaw-wala mama parked his rickshaw and sat down, bobbling his head with the familiar rhythm woven into pahari words. Mom with freshly bought books from Boi Mela on one hand, her kid on the other, took up chairs. It seemed like people from every ethnic background came together without a care for the culture of intolerance and violence currently existing in Bangladesh.

For one night, with the ticket paid by tolerance and peaceful co-existence, the love of music made all the people gather in celebration of all the ethnicities under one country, one nationality. Is that not the dream?

Digital Khichuri Challenge, 2019: A celebration of diversity

The grand finale of the highly anticipated “Digital Khichuri Challenge,2019”; took place on 11th December 2019; in the wonderful ambiance of ICT tower Auditorium, Agargaon.

The theme of this year’s challenge was, “Creating digital literacy among the migrant workers.” 9 finalists were selected for pitching their ideas in the grand finale round.

About Digital Khichuri Challenge

Upon hearing the word khichuri, a wholesome mixture comes to mind. And the idea and naming of the khichuri challenge also promotes a similar mixture. It was initiated to promote diversity and to prevent violent extremism.

The integration of diversity and pluralism was the core purpose. And hence the name ‘Digital khichuri Challenge’. The challenge has a successful past record of events. And it is now supported by Facebook,  Startup Bangladesh and ICT division.

About this year’s Challenge

This year, the theme of the Dhaka challenge was ‘Digital literacy for the migrants.’ The migrants are one of the driving forces of our economy. However, for a lack of digital literacy, they usually don’t have a refined online presence.

From a huge number of applications, 9 teams made it to the Grand Finale. They underwent a grooming and boot camping session for 3 days.

How the event unfolded

Sonia Mehzabin, Operation Manager, UNDP, initiated the event. She recounted how it all started and thanked the organizers and sponsors for making it possible. Then the audience enjoyed a short video rundown of the previous events; including the success stories of teams and the event.

Digital Khichuri Challenge, 2019: A celebration of diversity

But the showstopper was the storytelling session of a migrant worker; ‘Rehana.’

“Nobody thinks about us. I am really happy people are thinking about us now. The troubles we face, the difficulties cannot be expressed in words.”   

The pitches of the 9 teams came after this storytelling session. The organizer had kept entertainment as a priority. So an amazing beatboxing performance by Beatboxbd followed.

The ending session

Our honorable ICT minister Zunayed Ahmed Palak was the chief guest of the ending ceremony. In his speech, he remarked:

“Our payment comes from these migrant workers. So, it is our responsibility to make things easier for them. Also, our government is patronizing technology and startups. And the winning ideas will get all kinds of support.”

Digital Khichuri Challenge, 2019: A celebration of diversity

 Nazrul Islam, DGFEA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with Dr. Nurul Islam had also graced the event with their speeches and inspiring words.     

The Winners of Khichuri Challenge 2019

Digital Khichuri Challenge, 2019: A celebration of diversity

Winners were selected from 2 categories- Student and Startup.

Champion from student section was Team Edsite, Runner up was Team Choukosh.

Champion from startup section was Team We Works, Runner Up was Team Probash Kotha.

Champions from each category had received 5000 US Dollars, and Runners up received 2500 US Dollars seeding money.

They also have the opportunity of getting free office space and mentoring opportunities from ICT division.