All the Island’s a Theater in Alegría Rampante’s Debut Musical Novela

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The name alone gives it away: Alegría Rampante‘s debut album, Se Nos Fue La Mano, is absolutely over the top. Extravagant, even. Structured like a musical novela, it hits fantastical highs as often as it segues into moments of serenity. It’s a magical pop-rock epic generously adorned with oddball bells and whistles—yet, for all its theatricality, it still serves up considerable substance.

At the helm of the project is Puerto Rican artist Eduardo Alegría, who, particularly for an independent musician, boasts an impressive hometown following. In just two months, a crowdfunding campaign for financing rallied supporters to the tune of nearly $14k. The seeds of his loyal fanbase date back to the late ’90s as a founding member of Superaquello, a pop outfit that dissolved about five years ago. He’s also a member of the performance art collective Taller de Otra Cosa, through which Eduardo first filtered bits and pieces of Se Nos Fue La Mano.

This isn’t entirely a solo endeavor, though. Alegría Rampante, as a live band, includes Juan Antonio Arroyo (Los Manglers, Fantasmes), William Jorel Román and Kristian “Harry Rag” Prieto, both respected local players in their own right. The studio lineup—and sometimes the stage version too—includes a slew of guests: Gabriel Beauchamp Hurtado of Orquesta El Macabeo, Calle 13‘s Arturo Vergés, Fofé Abreu of Fofé y Los Fetiches and Circo, Bayoán Rivers of Tepeu and Laira Díaz Reyes of Los Manglers, among many others. The whole thing is practically a roll call of San Juan’s brightest, most beloved musicians of both past and present.

Se Nos Fue La Mano intends to reflect life on an island in the midst of an economic crisis, as Eduardo and his conocidos experience it. And it does—but not as tales of desperation. Yes, there are hardships, but recurring whiffs of wit offer relief from the underlying desolation. On the hushed “Ponleletretos,” Eduardo delicately sings, “Los quejidos del abuelo/ Dormido en la ducha/ Con la cabeza dentro del culo/ Se les fue la mano.” But all that bleak ignorance gets a chaotically ecstatic grand finale that moves seamlessly into “Hotel Puercoespín,” where the environs are set by a bell ringing and a woman shouting for assistance.

Surprisingly, that inauspiciously themed number is one of the album’s least dramatic. The opera-like vocals on the soaring “Cícero” and “El Muletas,” complete with audience feedback, better qualify as contributions to the overall theatrics.

The most enthralling track on Se Nos Fue La Mano, however, is hands down “El Recipiente/Tsunami”; goosebumps are instantaneous when Eduardo belts, “Yo fui hecho en el mar/ Fue el mar que me hizo así.” The sometimes grim glimpses of life Alegría Rampante presents are delivered with a degree of inherent affection for Puerto Rico—a sentiment that surely resonates with many. As dark as the outlook may get, the fact remains: “Una parte del mar/ Siempre dentro de mí,” he sings.