Fluid and confident, the music of Miguel Cabrera fluctuates in emotional and rhythmic intensity. The lyrics move easily with the fluctuations, and sometimes even inspire them.
But it’s the different sounds Cabrera has been able to create – or the seamless combination of seemingly contrasting sounds – that have made him so popular in Costa Rica as of late.
Infused with doses of modern rock, Latin rhythms, Spanish guitar and, to a smaller degree, modern electronic pop, each song seems stylistically different from the preceding one. Some songs lean more toward one style than others, but even the songs don’t seem to follow the linear and often base formulas so common in pop music; rather, each song develops on itself and morphs, so that where the listener started – usually with a soft guitar solo – is not where he finishes.
Then again, that’s how Cabrera likes to be.
“I don’t want to sound like anyone else,” he says. “I’m looking to discover myself as an artist.”
After only two albums, Cabrera seems to have done just that. Two months ago, he was awarded the 2009 Costa Rican Music Writers and Composers Association (ACAM) award for his latest album, “Caminando” (“Walking”).
The album moves between moments of almost strictly rock sounds to those of a more Latin pop variety. Others casually walk a tightrope between differing styles that have failed to work in the hands of other musicians.
“It made me very happy (to be given the award),” Cabrera says. “It was a very happy moment because the other artists competing against me were very well known, and to win for my second album – it was wonderful.”
Although he always enjoyed singing and playing guitar, the 39-year-old Cabrera only began to take singing seriously as a career option 11 years ago, when a friend asked him to play a string of guitar concerts in a San José commercial center, where he performed covers.
He had never thought of being a singer – he got his bachelor’s degree in business administration – let alone a songwriter.
“But after (the concerts), I began to write songs,” he says, adding that he became “an addict” of writing.
Just as it’s hard to pin down the style of his music, the themes of his songs span the spectrum, although he says he focuses on songs that deal with social issues.
“I feel it’s a bit of my responsibility as an artist that there be an equilibrium and equality,” Cabrera says. “That there’s love and that there’s peace.”
For example, he wrote “Con qué derecho” (“With What Right”) about Costa Rica’s rise in crime, and another about single mothers.
At the same time, “there are some themes that are sexier,” he says, referring to his song “El jabón” (“Soap”), which he wrote for his girlfriend.
“People like it,” he says.
But more than anything, he thinks of himself as “a philosopher who makes really beautiful music.”
Cabrera released his first album, “Escenas en común,” (“Common Scenes”) in 2006. Both of his albums were released independent of any record label.
His popularity was built on his performances around Costa Rica. And of all places, Cabrera still enjoys playing most at the Jazz Café in the eastern San José suburb of San Pedro, for its quiet, intimate atmosphere.
“The conditions are great for audio and lighting,” he says, “and people come to see the performance. … The place where I want to play is the place where people want to hear me. If people are happy, I’m happy.”
Cabrera is currently working on his next album and already has 50 songs written, a list he’s narrowing down to those most worth keeping.
“We’re really discovering new things with the new album,” he says.
Cabrera will open for Mexican singersongwriter Alejandro Filio tonight at the National Auditorium in San José’s Children’s Museum. For more on Cabrera, visit his Web site at www.miguelcabreracr.com.