Nashville’s Lagnajita Mukhopadhyay recently released her first poetry album, i don’t know anyone here.
And it’s incredible.
Lagnajita is a prolific writer - at age 16, she was named Nashville’s first Youth Poet Laureate, as well as Poet Ambassador for the Southeast. She subsequently published her first book, “this is war.” In 2019, M.C. Sarkar & Sons published her second collection "everything is always leaving.”
And now, by combining this background in poetry with her background in music, she has released an album. Written over a period of two years, i don’t know anyone here is built around the concept of a collage. It is a coming-together of different fragments and different pieces that forms one hell of a thesis about identity, Nashville, home, place, and power.
The fragmentation wasn’t an anomaly but the only way to embrace the cognitive dissonance of it.
When she was six years old, Lagnajita moved to Nashville from Kolkata, India. She’s experienced a duality of feeling both an outsider and an insider, and this idea is found throughout the album, both thematically and sonically. The album is deeply layered, with Lagnajita’s spoken word often placed over song. There’s abundant play with genre, adding to the experience of a collage and ranging from hip-hop, jazz, country, to a variety of Indian music styles, including the ghazal form and the classical tabla.
“I was struggling to create a sense of order within my life as an immigrant and the changing perceptions of what that meant as I grew up. But then I accepted that the order was within that chaotic nature of my upbringing and my culture. The fragmentation wasn’t an anomaly but the only way to embrace the cognitive dissonance of it. I equally started getting interested in the collage method in psychology and how it manifests. Thus, I felt the natural connection between fragmentation and collage—a “revolution” within myself. It was the only way to understand and make sense of the struggles of an outsider identity and the realization that I would never feel at home in this country,” Lagnajita wrote to me via email. (She’s on tour right now, and at this moment is moving through the desert in New Mexico and on to Colorado.)
I felt the natural connection between fragmentation and collage—a “revolution” within myself.
i don’t know anyone here is also a highly collaborative project, bringing in a variety of musicians and voices. “The collaboration was a key aspect of the project for sure—the desire to build a sort of community from one that I feel like I was a stranger to or an effort to know people better in the face of ‘i don’t know anyone here’ and an immigrant identity,” Lagnajita told me.
Struggles around identity are found throughout the album. She speaks of “identity days” and an “identity reset.” In “ghazal, a rebirth / ghazal, interrupted,” Lagnajita tries to create, yet is “trapped under white man’s grammar.” Then, with “indian sonnet designed for my past and future assassin,” she writes about her “people’s sonnet you’ve never heard ‘til now.”
The lead single, “identity as country song,” is Lagnajita’s poetry over a country song, recorded atop Fort Negley, and the poem speaks to the identity of Nashville itself. “Nothing ain’t the same no more,” she says. “New Nashville like pillaging.” These words ring true and will undoubtedly continue to ring true.
She also writes often of leaving, saying “i am not done writing about leaving.” In “thesaurus for everything i didn’t say,” Lagnajita speaks of a new city, “one that will teach me what it really means to come home.”
She writes about the Nashville music scene, too, in “from the bathroom at the house show.” “Hayley Williams is here again, rubbing elbows with my ex-best friend, everyone should come but only if you look just like the band,” Lagnajita speaks over a field recording of an actual house show. “All vibes, no clarity, emo blooms in living rooms, maybe you're just not punk enough.” The poem speaks to feeling like you don’t belong in a space that claims to be a place where everyone belongs.
“how can i talk if my lips don’t move” is a standout on the album. It’s a 30-minute track featuring a collection (or, a collage) of women’s stories, interspersed by Lagnajita’s poetry, recounting their memories of sexism, harassment, abuse, or assault - memories of times they were once powerless. “I tire to whoever took our voice,” says Lagnajita in-between these memories. It’s a heart-searing listen, but for me, it’s also a reminder that we’re not alone in these experiences. Like Lagnajita says in the opening, it’s the thing “that ties us together - the string.”
Order within chaos. Fragments creating a whole. There’s hope in that.
Listen to i don't know anyone here below. You can follow Lagnajita on Instagram @lagnajita14 to find updates on her tour. i don't know anyone here is also available to purchase with an accompanying book.