GOING FULL CIRCLE | Ebe Dancel re-introduces Sugarfree classics to new audiences

Ebe Dancel (Art by Jimbo Docena Albano/BusinessMirror)

Since pursuing a solo career in 2011, sought after singer-songwriter Ebe Dancel has successfully carved his own niche. In addition to his own hit, Ebe was also able to write and produce songs for other artists and was even instrumental in mentoring talented newcomers via the Elements Singing and Songwriting Camp.

But even with his own personal success, Ebe understands that the music of Sugarfree still resonate loudly to an increasing number of music fans, even those who were exposed to them belatedly after the group disbanded. It was no surprise then that a jukebox musical based on the band’s music called “Sa Wakas: A Pinoy Rock Musical” had several well-received runs from 2013 to 2018 and was particularly big with millennial audiences.

Ebe Dancel (center) flanked by, from left, Chito Ilagan, PolyEast Records A&R director; Jesmon Chua, PolyEast Records GM; Trici Nicolas, Ebe’s manager; and Ramon Chuaying, PolyEast Records president)

On Spotify, the band still commands quite a following with a monthly listener base of over 379,000 while Ebe himself is pretty solid with over 448,000 listeners every month.

While there have been repeated clamors for a Sugarfree reunion, the possibility remains remote given that former drummers Kaka Quisumbing and Mitch Singson are now associated with other bands while bassist Jal Taguibao seems to have given up on music and is now happy with being a member of the academe at the University of the Philippines.

For his part, Ebe’s usual response to such clamors for such a Sugarfree is “never say never” but since nothing has yet to materialize, he has decided to do what he considers as “the next best thing”: releasing a brand new album that consists of new recordings of some of those well-loved Sugarfree tunes.

Aptly-titled Baliktanaw, the 10-track new album is particularly significant as its release comes in the heels of Sugarfree’s 20th anniversary. Incidentally, the album will also be released by PolyEast Records, the label responsible for the band’s classic recordings. Yes, it’s a sort of a homecoming for Ebe.

“I thought it would be nice to come home to do this basically commemorative album because Sugarfree has just turned 20 years,” Ebe quipped, acknowledging the fact that by signing with PolyEast again, his career has come full circle.

But while Ebe has the avid Sugarfree fans in mind when he re-recorded orchestral versions (“the way I pictured them in my head…”) of well-loved classics like “Burnout,” “Mariposa,” “Tulog Na,” “Wag Ka Nang Umiyak,” and “Dear Kuya,” he also wanted to see how new fans would respond to these tunes that they never heard before.

“It’s also an introduction to the new fans who were not exposed to Sugarfree when we were still together. So hopefully, these new recordings will not only serve to bridge the [generation] gap but I think this is also good way to introduced them to the band where I started my career. In the process, it will also honor the other members of the band,” he pointed out.

Ebe said recording songs already familiar with many people is not without its own challenges. He understands that more popular hits are the trickiest ones to tinker with since they are already revered for what they are.

“The main challenge [is] not to ‘re-record’ them but to make them sound new and better,” he quipped.

Ironically, the album’s carrier single, “Hanggang Kailan Kita Mahihintay” is not a song that Ebe wrote for Sugarfree but for someone else. The song was penned by Ebe in 2014 for Paolo Valenciano, son of Mr. Pure Energy Gary Valenciano who initially pursued an entertainment career in front of the cameras but later found his niche behind as a sought-after concert director.

Ebe admits that the poignant ballad which he describes as “self-explanatory” holds a special place in his heart in the sense that he had a tough time finishing it. “I started writing the song after dinner and I finished it na lalabas na yung araw. Kaya may line dun na ‘hanggang dilim ay lumiwanag…’ so I literally waited for that song to be finished,” he recalled.

Incidentally, Paolo will be directing Ebe’s upcoming concert with The Manila String Machine on February 29 at the Metrotent Convention Center in Pasig City. “It will be my first ever concert that I will be accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra under Chino David as my musical director. I’m really excited about this,” he enthused.

Baliktanaw, which will be released on physical CD on concert date also features all-new recordings of “Unang Araw,” “Kwarto,” “Cuida” and “Hangover.” Tickets for the concert are available at www.ticket2me.net.

Moving forward, Ebe sounds introspective about his immediate and distant future.

“I’m taking things one step at a time. I want to do things right and be careful about my next move. That’s the only way it’s going to happen. I hope to write my own musical someday, I think that’s every songwriters dream and I’m still open to writing songs for other artists but right now, I honestly want to write songs for myself,” Ebe concluded. (With additional reporting by Eloisa Jane Palermo)

Image credits: Image by Jimbo Albano


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