Performance Turned Tragic

I was reading something I came across earlier in the day that I thought I should share with my readers. Apparently, just this past week, an Indonesian Dangdut singer passed away after being bitten by a king cobra during one of her performances. What makes the story even more unusual is that Irma Bule, the deceased singer, continued performing 45 minutes after the snake bite before collapsing from the effects of the venom. She would later be pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

A genre of music considered controversial by conservative Muslims in Indonesia as a result of how the singers dress and dance to the music, many young girls venture into this type of music in a bid to overcome their poor backgrounds. An article on dated April 8th 2016 by Yenni Kwok delves deeper into what would drive a woman with 3 young children, to perform on stage with highly venomous snakes like the king cobra.

Many new singers are young women who come from small towns or poor backgrounds, or both. Like Irma, they 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 Irma’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.”

For Irma Bule, her pursuit of fame and money ended tragically for her when she accidentally stepped on the snake’s tail. In retaliation, the snake bit her on the thigh and the poor singer, assuming it was de-fanged, declined a venom antidote offered to her by one of the snake handlers and continued singing to her death.

Any normal person would be highly uncomfortable attending a concert where live snakes are involved. In Africa, for example, a person who seems too friendly beyond understanding with the reptile is often rumored to be dabbling in witchcraft or branded a witch.

Irma Bule. Photo: You Tube

Irma Bule. Photo: You Tube


And while it would be highly unfair to suggest that the audience and Irma herself are abnormal people or witches per se, it is however, quite evident the lengths that poverty can drive a person to go just to overcome it. Similar to how a mother would introduce her own daughter to prostitution, just to put food on the table and justify her actions as trying to survive, is how one would settle on a reptile that can stand to human height when provoked, as a prop for her performances just to attract larger audiences and ultimately more money.

It is unfortunate that what I assume Irma had grown to love to do would be what would signify her end. As bizarre as the story is so is it just as sad.



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