An Indonesian pop star dies from king cobra after being bitten by the venomous snake she brought on stage as a prop at a village in West Java. Irma Bule lost her life on Sunday that sparked a wave of sensationalist headlines including one that alleged she continued to sing for 45 minutes before collapsing on stage.
However, few stories looked beyond the lurid confluence of pop music, poison and a Indonesian pop star’s death to understand why Irma was on stage with such a dangerous animal in the first place, according to FOX News.
The Indonesian pop star who died from a king cobra bite was 26-years-old. A mother of three, she was known in the Karawang area of West Java province for her goyang ular, Indonesian for “snake dance moves.” She started singing dangdut since she graduated from junior high school.
Dangdut is a popular music genre in Indonesia, and often used to attract crowds, especially during election campaigns. Many new singers are young women who come from small towns or poor backgrounds, or both. Like this local pop star, these pop stars tour rural and urban backwaters to earn a living, usually to help support their families, while dreaming of a breakthrough in Indonesia’s pop music scene.
They are usually paid a pittance. According to pop star’s fellow singer, Yeyen, girls get paid around $20 per performance (tips from the audience are extra). But, if they perform on stage with a snake, they get $25. “If there are snake dancers, there will be more audience,” Yeyen told local media. “Therefore … we have snake dancers.”
As the Indonesian pop star dies from a king cobra bite, police say they are investigating the incident and have asked people in the audience for information.
The young singers have to find a way to entice bigger audiences in the highly competitive market. They are usually dressed in skimpy costumes. They invent provocative dance moves. Dangdut superstar Inul Daratista, whose suggestive, gyrating dance movements have irked religious conservatives, began her career touring small towns and villages in East Java province before videos of her style of dancing propelled her to fame and caught the eyes of television executives.
The Indonesian pop star’s mother Encum said her daughter, whose real name is Irmawati but whom her family called Eneng, started performing with snakes and cobras three years ago — but she usually sang with nonvenomous pythons that belonged to a snake handler and with the snakes’ mouths duct-taped shut. “Eneng perhaps didn’t know it was a poisonous snake,” Encum said about the animal used last Sunday. “She was just told to perform with the snake and its mouth wasn’t shut with a duct tape.”
There was also a speculation that the pop star brought snakes to prevent unwanted touching from audience members when she was on stage.
But beyond the bizarre of this Indonesian pop star dying from a king cobra bite, there is something sad and sobering about Irma’s tale. “Irma is a portrait of an Indonesian woman who happens to be at the lower level of society,” Supriatma writes. “She fights hard. She exploits what she can exploit to go on living.” She certainly doesn’t deserve to die amid a storm of lurid, tabloid headlines.