An anthem should be an acoustic monument. Raphael Schadt wrote the German song for the World Youth Day in Panama. "Take my yes" it's called – in the interview he explains what he hopes for and why he struggles.
CBA: Mr. Schadt, what is the biggest difference between your version and the original?
Raphael Schadt: The sound. I would describe the original as world music pop, I made a song out of it on an electric track.
Schadt: First of all, there is a practical reason. I found out about the hymn competition by chance in the fall – shortly before the closing date for entries. I had to choose an approach that was easy for me – the electric track. Coupled with a dry beat, the goal was to make the title catchy. After all, the hymn is meant to be sung along to. For orientation, I chose Felix Jaehn's "Ain't Nobody," the remix of an 80s hit, which I like for its reduced aesthetics.
CBA: To what extent does a pared-down aesthetic fit with a colorful tropical country like Panama?
Schadt: I didn't ask myself that question. Instead, I amed that young German pilgrims would bring something of their culture to Panama – like the wise men from the East once did to the manger of Jesus. And reduced aesthetics suit young Germans well, otherwise they wouldn't have made "Ain't Nobody" a hit.
CBA: Apart from the electro sound, what else did you change??
Schadt: I first translated the lyrics literally. Afterwards I translated the words into German so that they became singable, rhymed and metrically matched each other. This was the most difficult part. Because I wanted to keep the spiritual impetus of the original at all costs.
CBA: Which one is this?
Schadt: That the way of the gospel lies in trusting God and obeying God. That's not too hip a message at first: after all, it's more "in" to be powerful yourself, as you know it from sometimes grotesquely staged fantasies of omnipotence from metal and hiphop videos, for example.
CBA: Some song vocabulary isn't exactly hip either, "maid" and "servant," for instance.
Schadt: The theme of World Youth Day is, after all, a Marian one: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," it says, according to the Gospel of Luke. There are such vocabularies in them precisely. They are related to the message I was talking about. The one to give God control. As I said: This statement is not hip at first. It is therefore all the more important to present it in such a way that young people can access it.
CBA: But apparently not everyone can do that. On the Internet, there's a lot of positive feedback as well as thumbs down for your work.
Schadt: Admittedly, the song form is very complex. I think that with something like a World Youth Day hymn – with all the love for complexity of content – it should be above all about catchiness. This requires reduction and repetition. Just think of an evergreen like "Silent Night". The more melodic and rhythmic themes are added to the verses, the less pleasing the song becomes. In the end, only what was quickly memorable will be sung and remembered. The perfectionist in me is still struggling with the song.
CBA: What is it good for anyway?
Schadt: A World Youth Day anthem is supposed to create community. It prepares for the event and afterwards evokes memory, is virtually an acoustic monument. Or even a think time: Because to sing the refrain over and over again, has something meditative, that directs the thoughts completely on God. At any rate, that's what I'm hoping for from my work as well.