Once A Slave
“She has been able to turn a big, heavy theme into a small, vulnerable song in which hope conquers all.” – Jury Art Rocks 2016

In September of 2016, Lisa Nora discovered the music contest Art Rocks for the first time, a spin-off of ‘De Grote Prijs van Nederland’. Five museums took part and Lisa chose for a piece of art from the ‘Tropenmuseum’ in Amsterdam.

The art piece is a drawing about slavery, signed by J.G. Stedman. The full name is; ‘Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave’ (1793). Slaves were forced to beat fellow slaves when these people ‘deserved’ it. Most of the time these were flagellations. When a slave refused to beat another slave, he/she would be punished as well.

Lisa Nora’s song, called ‘Once A Slave’ is a work song. This means that all slaves could have sung songs like these together on the plantations on which they worked, to create a feeling of solidarity. “This art piece spoke to me in particular because these people lived in really bad conditions. You can distinctly see this in the artwork and that is why it has moved me so much. My song is a typical work song. Their work was hopeless and maybe, at a moment in time, they had given up faith to live a new day.”

When Lisa Nora got through to the semi-finals, leaving the 50 musicians and bands who had signed up for this museum behind, she picked up her guitar and went to the ‘Tropenmuseum’ in Amsterdam, where music was heard all day long, played by the ten semi-finalists. She performed ‘Once A Slave’ a couple of times, each time for a new group of people who stopped by to listen. The jury had decided that Lisa Nora would go through to the final. From each museum, 1 act would go through to the final in Paradiso, Amsterdam.

And then the day came; January 17, 2017. A usual Tuesday for most people, but not for Lisa. In the early morning she went to Amsterdam, to perform in Paradiso for the first time ever. Together with the four other finalists and the winner of last year, they set up a show, full of music inspired by art. Ultimately it was Lisa Nora who came first and could call herself the winner of Art Rocks 2016.

Just after the final, Lisa Nora said: “I think that it is just the best thing that one art form can inspire another. In the music and art world you see this all the time and I think that it is beautiful to realize that. This way, people learn to respect art and I think that is the main goal for a lot of artists. After this night, it feels special to me to say that I have contributed to that initiative.”