It takes some confidence to play the Cranberries’s Zombie in the middle of Dublin. The Cranberries are a beloved Irish band. Zombie is not only their most popular song, but it is also one of the most popular songs by an Irish band, full stop. In 2020 the video of Zombie became the first video by an Irish band to obtain 1 billion YouTube views.
Then there is the affection that is felt for Dolores O’Riordan, the late Cranberries singer. To top it all, Dublin has one of the healthiest busking scenes in the world, so the standards are high and Irish audiences have never been afraid to express their opinions. Luckily, Jacob Koopman and Kylabelle were more than up to the task. Take a listen:
Dublin City Today, a YouTube channel dedicated to documenting the best of Dublin busking and which posted the Koopman and Kylabelle video, rightly describes the performance as “outstanding”. Jacob Koopman, the guitarist, and Kylabelle, the singer, gel so well together that one would guess that they regularly busk together, but this is not the case. While both are established buskers, and while neither is averse to ad hoc collaborations, they are not a duo.
Dr Peter Robinson comments: “Doesn’t matter who Jacob sings with, he always manages to gel extremely well with his partner. Sign of a great musician”. Besides the synergy between the two buskers, there is the seemingly effortless ease with which Kylabelle sings. This is not easy as the song addresses the “Troubles” in Ireland, so it’s not just about hitting the right notes, it’s about conveying the underlying emotions. Here is Kylabelle’s solo version of Fleetwood Macs’s classic track Dreams.
The video of Jacob Koopman and Kylabelle performing Zombie was filmed on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Grafton Street is one of the two most important shopping streets in the centre Dublin. Thanks to the busy street being completely pedestrianised in the early 1980s, Grafton Street has become one of the world’s most famous busking venues. Over the last decades, it has become so popular that it has required regulations beyond a busker’s permit, which is a common requirement in major cities.
To give buskers a fair shot at delighting pedestrians (and hopefully attracting tips), each act is required to move on after playing for an hour, with the slots starting at the top of the hour. Further, performers can’t perform within 100m of any spot where they have already played on the same day. Busking is restricted to 11am to 11pm, but the competition for the best locations is such that performers often queque for hours before playing.
Grafton Street has become such a well-known busking venue that musicians as famous as Bono have been known to busk for charity on Christmas Eve. A wide range of music can be heard on any day, and you are likely to encounter musicians from around.
While Kaylabelle is a young singer establishing herself, Jacob Koopman is among the better-known buskers of Grafton Street. Of Indo-Dutch descent, Koopman has been playing there for ten years. Interviewed by Culture Trip for an article on the buskers of Grafton Street, Koopman commented “I’ve busked everywhere else, and I prefer the vibe here – the other buskers are friendly. It’s a good community for growing your music, and people here are quite receptive when it comes to original stuff”.
Kaylabelle was recently accepted as a composition student at BIMM Institute, which has recently been upgraded to University status. Both Kaylabelle and Jacob Koopman release a mix of covers and original music on their YouTube channels.