Top Ten Renditions of "Nessaja"

“Nessaja”, also known as “Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein” (“I never wanted to be adult”) or “Nessajas Lied” (“Nessaja’s Song”), is a song by Romanian-German singer-songwriter Peter Maffay first released in 1983 as the closing track of his concept album “Tabaluga oder: Die Reise zur Vernunft”. It was composed by Maffay himself, with the original German lyrics having been written by Rolf Zuckowski.

In the context of the album, which is based around a young dragon called Tabaluga who is on a journey to find what reason means, the song is sung by the wise old turtle Nessaja who tells Tabaluga that even after all these years, he has always remained a child inside and never really wanted to grow up in the first place. The song has a slightly melancholic and nostalgic in feeling, having a somewhat bittersweet tone, that becomes more positive throughout its duration, and can be understood in its entirety without knowing the rest of the album.

After the success of the album, Tabaluga became a very popular children’s character in various cartoons, books, musicals, etc., that everybody knows, to an extent that little people know that he originated from a music album by a popular and acknowledged musician that ironically is just as famous himself. However, this is completely unrelated to the song’s success. “Nessaja” has become a very well known and much performed evergreen over the years with most people not knowing its original context in the album. The lyrics about staying true to your inner child until you die (translated from the German: “somewhere deep inside me / I remained a child / only then when I can’t feel it anymore / I know it’s too late for me”), which may also stand for freedom and being unspoiled by society’s pressure, has touched people, and it’s a moving and very melodic song to cover live. The song initially only charted at number 17, but due to the many performances by Maffay and other artists, it became a classic tune later on, and probably one of the most famous German songs of all time.

International audiences are most likely rather familiar with Scooter’s trance-style cover version that was featured in the very first moments of the comedy movie “Brüno”. The rendition is also the commercially most successful version of the song, having charted in various different countries, often in the top ten, and having peaked at number one in Germany.
The Top Ten
1 Nessaja (Version 2010) - Peter Maffay

Although the original will always remain the classic, and of course needs to be acknowledged as the introduction of the tune, I personally think with his 2010 re-recording Peter Maffay created an even more powerful version. Apart from containing a beautiful string section, this version also has a very climatic build up that ends up in a fantastic grande finale.

2 Nessaja - Peter Maffay

The classic 1983 version of the tune has without a doubt the most emotional performance next to Maffay's own 2010 rendition. It's a slow paced, beautiful and meaningful ballad that I regard as one of the greatest achievements in German music.

3 Nessaja - Alex Christensen & The Berlin Orchestra

In 2017, popular techno producer Alex Christensen, also known as Alex C., hired the Berlin Orchestra to record several classic eurodance and techno songs of the 90s in a symbiosis of classical and electronic music. Though I at first was highly sceptical and expected a big fail (you don't cover or remix eurodance classics, they are sacred. They are what the 90s sounded like - at least over here). Anyway, I ended up unexpectedly liking the album, and how it manages to combine the orchestral and the oldschool techno elements. His version of Nessaja is even better than Scooter's - which, by the way, wasn't released in the 90s but in 2002, so the track shouldn't have been on the record in the first place.

4 Nessaja - Scooter

Translating "Nessaja"'s lyrics into English, pitching the vocals up to a chipmunk degree, interpolating the melody of "Baker Street" played on a synthesizer and of course having H.P. Baxxter shouting bizarre sentence fragments into the mic, Scooter created one of the most iconic techno songs to date that somehow, despite all the odds, manages to keep a bit of emotion from the original.

5 Nessaja - Michael Engel

Because of this cheap looking cover artwork I briefly hesitated putting this up here (if Engel was an artist without a label contract that had to craft everything on its own, that would have been excusable, but he actually wrote hit songs for well known German celebrities - although not exactly artists that I like). But you have to acknowledge when something is done well, and this harmonica cover sounds very graceful.

6 Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein (Nessajas Lied) - Helene Fischer

People can hate on Helene Fischer all they want, but this woman has a great voice. Her music may be soulless pop, but she's definitely talented in what she does: singing. And naturally, ballads are easy cake for someone who can sing. She may not have the nostalgic bittersweetness of Maffay, but it still feels enchanting and magical.

7 Erwachsen sein - 23 & Peter Maffay

23 was a short lived collaboration project from hip hop superstars Bushido and Sido that was only active in 2011. This was at a time when both were at their poppiest and didn't have the best stand in German hip hop, although they later recovered very, very much and are legends now. In that era, the dark and aggressive German hip hop was at a commercial low point, and many rappers tried to become more radio friendly and collaborated with popular music stars. It mostly works out on "Erwachsen sein", though. Peter Maffay re-recorded the most famous segment of the song, the first verse, which serves as the chorus, and the string segment of the 2010 version was sampled at the end. Bushido and Sido rap about realizing they get older and start to change, but deep inside, they always remained the same. It's not their greatest song, but it's good.

8 Ich wollte nie Erwachsen sein (Nessaja) - Charlie Glass

This is a beautiful sounding, enchanting instrumental piano cover that works exactly for what it is. A song that has such a great melody that is packed with emotion is more than suitable for a piano version.

9 Nessaja - Gonzo and Friends

It's solid. It's not exciting or spectacular, it doesn't get to me emotionally, but it's sung and performed flawlessly, without there being much innovative about it.

10 Nessaja (Crystal Lake Remix) - Sunset Project & Tomtrax

It's neither as iconic nor as great Scooter's chart topping approach, but this techno version is also fine for a dance party. It's not thrilling, but it has a nice, stomping beat and cool synths. The gazillion of other remixes of this version are quite... underwhelming.

The Contenders
11 Nessaja (Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein) - Dirk Bergmann

No... please no.

Just let me add the god damn audio samples myself, okay?
I didn't browse through dozens of sites to find that many covers that are ALL available on iTunes, for the list to look like this.

12 Nessaja - YvOnya
13 Nessaja- Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein - Barbara Spoo
14 Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein - Saskia Fischer
15 Nessaja - Martin Pfeiffer
16 Nessaja - Oscar Javelot
17 Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein (Nessaja) - Wolfgang Stiller
18 Nessaja (Doctor B Meets Groove Control) - Doctor B & Groove Control
19 Nessaja (Dancemix) - Reiner Vogl
20 Ich wollte nie erwachsen sein (Nessaja's Lied) - Sandy Christen
21 Nessaja - The Techno All Stars
22 Nessaja (Alexander Marcus Club Mix) - Alexander Marcus
23 Nessaja (Workout Remix) - DJ Kee
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