April 8, 2016 3:35 pm

An Indonesian singer known for performing with live snakes has died after being bitten by a king cobra onstage.

Irma Bule, 29, is not a household name in the English-speaking world. But in Indonesia, she is known as a singer of dangdut, a pop fusion of folk, South Asian film music, and rock and roll that rose to prominence in the 1980s.


“With its nasal, melismatic vocal style and propulsive hand drum rhythms, dangdut is in many ways a music of the Islamic word,” Jeremy Wallach wrote in “Sonic Modernities in the Malay World,” though “most dangdut songs deal with non-religious, sentimental themes, and the genre is frequently denounced as sinful and morally corrupting by strict Muslims in Indonesia.”

Though once banned by the government, the style is now considered passe — so much so that Bule’s penchant for performing with king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah), reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus) and boa constrictors, as Reptiles Magazine noted, was thought a bit of a “gimmick” that brought a grisly end.

“Dangdut is such an oversaturated musical genre in Indonesia that it’s not surprising how many artists employ gimmicks in their act to stand out from the rest,” Cocunuts Jakarta, one of a network of sites that covers urban areas in Asia, wrote. “Unfortunately, dangdut singer Irma Bule’s deadly gimmick, combined with her dedication to showmanship, led to her untimely death.”

Bule was performing in a village in West Java when she was presented with a king cobra that was supposed to have been defanged. It was not.

“My daughter might not have known that the snake that was given to her for the show was a dangerous cobra,” Bule’s mother, Encum, told an Indonesian outlet quoted by the Daily Mail. (Indonesians sometimes do not have surnames.) “She was told she could wear it, even though its mouth was not closed with duct tape.”

This information proved tragically wrong.

“In the middle of the second song, Irma stepped on the snake’s tail,” Ferlando Octavion Auzura, who witnessed the attack, told an Indonesian news outlet. “The snake then bit Irma in her thigh.”

Cocunuts Jakarta posted a video that purportedly documented the attack:

Watch the moment where the cobra bites the singer at 0:40

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This post was written by Nadia Vella