Source: LeMonde 2001
Translated from Spanish by Samira
Let’s go back to 10 years ago. It’s summertime and the weather is beautiful. All of a sudden, on the radio, a voice quivers, rumbles, roars. All at the same time and on the same insistent word: « Zombie, Zoooombie ». The sentence stops on some incredible vocalisations, almost like yodles, mixed up with saturated electric guitars that remind us of Nirvana, band that appeared with grunge music in 1992.
This incredible breaker voice is Dolores O’Riordan’s. She’s 23, has short hair, piercings all along her ears, a strong Irish accent and from the top of 1,60m (height), she screams to the world the misfortunes of her island and the victims of the conflict in Nothern Ireland. For a summer hit, Zombie has nothing to do with the Lambada.
The Irish troubles theme is not new: in 1983, U2 already sang the endless violence hitting people stuck between the IRA bombs and the British Army. The famous « Sunday, bloody Sunday », a non partisan hymn, where drums copy the drum rolls, dealt with that Bloody Sunday in 1972 when the British Army started to shoot on a Catholic demonstration in Derry. 10,000 people, who came to protest against the arbitrary imprisonment politic led by Great Britain, were greeted with bullets, making 14 victims.
10 years later, the Cranberries arrived with the same theme, being thus classified in the category of « a these » bands (with a certain message). They were on tour in Great Britain when they heard on March 20, 1993 that 2 IRA bombs were dropped on a mall in Warrington, in the North of the country. Two children were killed; one of them was sitting on a litter bin that exploded, the other one was killed the following day while he was looking for a card for Mothers’ Day.
The event did not have the same political impact as Bloody Sunday- which convinced Great Britain to run Ulster directly from Westminster. However, the emotion was more significant on the British Isles. Dolores O’Riordan followed close behind the glorious elders, and wrote Zombie: « Another head hangs lonely, child is slowly taken/ Who are we mistaken? ». The song describes the inner tourment of a man – a zombie- traumatised by the civil war that lasts since Easter Insurrection, date when The Republic was proclaimed: « It’s the same old theme since 1916, in your head they’re still fighting ».
The Cranberries are not particular about details. In the video, shooted in Belfast, children play to the war in a gloomy city, surveyed by threatening soldiers with guns. A divine face (gilded) screams her rage from the top of a cross, surrounded by little frightened angels. Bad luck, the song was only released in 1994, when IRA had just signed a ceasefire and civil war made a pause. The singer was accused of deliberately reopening the debate. All the more so since her song, which is supposed to be a call for peace, was up with even less politically correct declarations: « In some cases, I’m for death penalty. In Singapour, they cut hands to thieves and heads to murderers. Thus, no more crimes », as Dolores O’Riordan declared it to Inrockuptibles in 1995.
She’s also been criticised for her final speeches on topics such as abortion or feminism: « To me, this (feminism) is just for girls who have been dumped 30 times in their lives and who decide that men are bastards ». Maybe , the Cranberries’ icon’s childhood spent in her island, shy teenager, who the became a rockstar within a few months, has left a mark on her.
Youngest child within a family of 7 children, she used to sing in chorals from 5 years old; she can read Gaelic; she plays tin whistle. And of course, she ’s Catholic. « At school we always had to confess. Since I had nothing to be shamed of, I had to make up sins to please the priest who was listening to me behind the grille. But without this education, I would never have been frustrated. And if I wasn’t frustrated, the I wouldn’t be here today ».
The other members of the band, the brothers Noel and Mike Hogan, bass and guitars, and the drummer Fergal Lawler are from Limerick as well. They grew up with Guinness and odd jobs. Critics don’t stop Zombiefrom being heard all around the world. More than 15 million copies of the album No Need To Argue were sold. For the Cranberries, the year 1995 was luxurious. Dolores O’Riordan-who got married at the Church and in Doc Martens- sang with Luciano Pavarotti Ave Maria in a concert in aid of Bosnia children. A song that would be appear 9 years later on the original soundtrack of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. Then, Ireland definately became trendy. But contrary to the elders U2 or Sinead O’Connor, bands who conquer the world prefer to avoid politics and polemics. The boys band Boyzone or the Corrs prefer to keep from their homeland the folklore and content themselves with tinging their romantic ballads with harps or reed-pipes.