20 years later, Sugarfree’s ‘Dramachine’ is still the soundtrack of young Pinoys’ lives

Juno Reyes

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20 years later, Sugarfree’s ‘Dramachine’ is still the soundtrack of young Pinoys’ lives
After 20 years, the impact of 'Dramachine' continues to grow, drawing in newer generations in the process to make for a timeless record

MANILA, Philippines – Ebe Dancel keeps a wooden cross on him every time he sets foot on stage. 

“This,” he immediately answered, taking it out of his jacket pocket when a member of the press asked him if he had any tried and tested pre-performance rituals. 

Carrying it with him wherever he went was a way for him to ease whatever anxieties came his way. He even shared that when you see him standing quietly with his hand in his pocket before a show, it means that he is holding onto the cross – clearing his mind.  

For a musician crossing the two-and-a-half-decade mark in the industry this year, it was comforting to see that, just like any other person, the Sugarfree frontman maintained a tight grasp on the things that would ground him throughout his career, and in his case, it was his faith. 

As his performance drew nearer and nearer, it was already starting to look like he would put out a lively performance like always – and he did.

Timeless records

Ebe performed a total of 23 songs during the concert for the 20th anniversary of Sugarfree’s 2004 album Dramachine on February 3 at 123 Block in Mandaluyong City. Throughout the set, he was accompanied by Mitch Singson, Sugarfree’s drummer. 

“More than being bandmates, I think we’ve managed to remain friends and keep in touch. So, when it’s time to rehearse and to perform, it’s still the same old feeling. That’s never going to go away. When you’re friends for life, that’s what it does,” Ebe said about Mitch. 

Indeed, not much has changed, except for one thing. 

There was a large crowd of concertgoers that night, many of them there to relive the soundtrack of their college days through Sugarfree’s music. 

However, a sizable group of Gen Z attendees were also present, presumably for various reasons. They could have grown up listening to Sugarfree because of their parents or older siblings, or even discovered Dramachine and Sugarfree’s other music a decade after their release.

The entire audience, including the Gen Zs, knew every single lyric to the songs Ebe and Mitch performed, sometimes even singing louder than Ebe did. 

‘DEAR KUYA.’ The crowd sings along to Ebe Dancel’s performance of ‘Dear Kuya.’ Photo by Juno Reyes/Rappler

P’wede na ba ‘kong kumanta (Can I sing now)? Ebe quipped at one point, drawing laughs from the crowd when an audience member’s singing was picked up by the stage microphones. 

After 20 years, the impact of Dramachine continues to grow, drawing in newer generations in the process to make for a timeless record. But Ebe actually doesn’t know why the album has struck such a chord with listeners, both new and old. 

Ebe shared that Sugarfree had just really wanted to perform on stage and make music. The outpouring of love their music had gotten from Filipinos across different age groups seemed to have just come as a big bonus.

“We had ‘Hari ng Sablay,’ and then parang nag-avalanche na (it’s been like an avalanche since then). We had that album. We had ‘Makita Kang Muli.’ We had ‘Tulog Na.’ We had ‘Kwarto.’ We had ‘Prom,'” Ebe said. 

“Maybe it’s because ‘yung nakikinig kasi noon sa akin, mga kaedad ko. Parang pareho kami ng pinagdadaanan (My listeners then were my age. We were going through the same things). I think they appreciated that it was written in a way na kaya rin nilang isulat (that they could also write),” he added, moments after weighing the possible reasons. 

Years later, this sentiment still rings true. He had even shared that some younger performers would go up to him during gigs to enthusiastically tell him about how they listened to his music when they were in high school. 

“Personally, I’ve been looking forward to the younger generation just taking over [the music scene]. I think, andun na (we’re there already). Ultimately, that’s a good thing. Kasi, kung matagal mo nang ginagawa ito, parang napakalaking pasalamat mo na ‘yung (Because if you’ve been doing this for a while, you’re thankful for the) next generations,” Ebe said. 

The 25-year mark

But if there’s one thing Ebe learned after 25 years in the music industry, it’s the value of patience – which he attests does not come overnight, no matter how long you’ve been doing your craft. 

“Along with that, patience teaches you humility. Siyempre (Of course), 20 years ago, I was so much younger. I made a lot of mistakes. So, ‘yung (the) value ng (of) patience, ng (of) hard work, I think, if you’re really into it, it comes with a certain sense of humility just to appreciate everything,” the 47-year-old musician said. 

‘MAKITA KANG MULI.’ Ebe Dancel belts out ‘Makita Kang Muli’ for eager concertgoers. Photo by Juno Reyes/Rappler

“Thank you” was probably the phrase of the night as Ebe would express his gratitude toward the audience throughout his entire set.

And from the familiar cheers of the audience to the nostalgia that quietly takes over as Ebe performs each song, it’s clear that Dramachine and Sugarfree’s music will continue to live on and cut across generations. –

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