Photo is a screenshot from Enya’s Amarantine video.
Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin was Born in Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland in 1961. We anglicize it to Enya Patricia Brennan. Many people reading this will not have heard of her. For a brief while, she was the most popular vocalist in all of Europe. She is still in the top 50 of all time sales and is still the number one New Age/Celtic performer.
Enya got her start with her family’s existing band, Clannad (originally Clann as Dobhar) in 1980 on keyboards and vocals but within 2 years she was on her way to a solo career. Maybe you remember their first major hit, the theme from Harry’s Game.
It climbed to number 5 on Britain’s pop charts, the only song performed entirely in Gaelic to have ever done so.
I can’t seem to separate the group Clannad from the two anime of the same name (Clannad and Clannad Afterstory) in my head. The original name of the group, Clann as Dobhar, means “the family from Dobhar. (Dobhar would be pronounced somewhere between dure and door.) “Clannad” is a shorter version, “Clann” plus the first letter of the other two words, “a” and “d”.
It turns out that the guy who wrote the scenario for the manga (Jun Maeda) thought that Clannad was a real word that was Gaelic for family. He was wrong. “Clann” is Gaelic for family. There is no word “Clannad” in Gaelic except the band’s abbreviated name. But it sounds really nice and makes me think of lovely gentle sad music, so it is OK by me.
So now Enya has split to seek her own fortune. In 1984, she did some instrumental tracks for the movie, The Frog Prince. Her first album was originally titled Enya which was eventually re-released as The Celts since it was originally written for the epinonymous BBC TV series about the Celts. Same album, different title much greater success.
Enya lives in a castle in real life.
It was with her album Watermark and her global hit Orinoco Flow that she really hit the big time. The Orinoco is a river in Columbia and Venezuela that empties into the Caribean and also the name of the studio where it was recorded. (The Caribean features in other music by her as well.)
The song is the perfect expression of the wanderlust of a global traveler. I rather expected it to end up in advertising for a cruise line. Crystal Light used it instead. Even you young folks have probably heard it.
It hit number one on the charts in many countries, including Great Britain. Here in the US it only hit 24, proof of our inferior musical taste.
From then on, Enya could probably have burped and it would have been a hit. However, she continued to put out magnificent music with greater depth and maturity and it sold. In 1991 she released Shepherd Moons, taking material from her life, the London Blitz of WWII and her grandparents. The Shepherd Moons album outsold Watermark globally, was literally number one in Europe for a bit but only reached 17th in the US, further evidence of a huge cultural divide.
This time she won the Grammy’s that Watermark was only nominated for.
I just love this video to death! What an incredible story it weaves.
Her next album out was The Memory of Trees. The lead single was called Anywhere Is. and the title of this post is a clever play on those words. (What do you mean, “not clever”?) Originally Enya and her longtime producer Nicky Ryan had decided not to use it because it felt like a march but Rob Dickens liked it and when the chairman of Warner Records likes something, you go for it. Roma Ryan, Nicky’s wife, wrote the lyrics and Enya crafted the melody.
Another song about wandering. This time it isn’t wanderlust. It is about being lost, unsure of the right way forward. Not wanting to sever her connections. A person looking for a place to belong and maybe call home.
On the same album, we have On My Way Home. Once again it is about traveling but this time she’s confident and on her way home. The song is about happy memories, thinking about good things in life and how returning home can trigger those.
Only good days.
On my way home
I remember all the best days.
I’m on my way home
I can remember
Every new day.
Paint the Sky with Stars was Enya’s first shot at a “best of” album but it also included a couple of new works, Only If… and Paint the Sky with Stars. It met with resounding critical success as well as good sales.
Book of Days, one of the oldies featured in Paint the Sky with Stars, was used in the Ron Howard film Far and Away. Another song about traveling, only this time the beginning of the journey.
She was offered the theme song for Titanic in 1997 and declined.
In 1998, Enya’s most successful album came out, A Day Without Rain. She’s added strings to her mix. She writes her songs and lives in Ireland. They can get long stretches of rain and the title came about literally because she was taking her daily walk and that day it wasn’t raining.
After the 9-11 attacks, the single Only Time was picked up by many television stations as a kind of theme for the tragedy of what happened. (The song had been written in contemplation of her own love life. This was unsettling. It was never intended as background music to tragedy.) There was a resurgence in demand for the album and the single. Enya donated the money from the single to the International Association of Firefighters.
Post 9-11 the song was remixed specifically to honor the people who died that day. There was no official video made for it.
This is a more complex musical style. The harmonies are deeper and richer. Her voice is featured more clearly. The vocal is not overpowered by the instrumental. She takes risks. As much as I love Enya from any stage of her career, I love this even more. The entire album is more certain in purpose and stronger messages are sent, questions asked more firmly.
There’s a bunch of songs here that tickle me pink. The entries here are as good as any she has ever done. These are my favorites.
Flora is the Roman goddess of flowers. There was no official video made for this song but the flower photography here is stunning!
And now for something completely different! Tempus Vernum, sung in Latin, is completely unlike anything she has ever done. It is immediately followed by the prayerful Deora Ar Mo Chroi in Gaelic.
This is the most frightening song about springtime I have ever heard. It sounds to me like an ancient army out to conquer the world.
But my favorite has got to be Wild Child. (The Japanese film Calmi Cuori Appassionati used it as its title track.) It speaks to me of those ever decreasing moments when I am close to nature and far from man. Moments when I can forget I’m an aging soon-to-be derelict and just be, letting the sounds and feelings of nature flow through me. I can be a wild child again, even if for a passing instant.
OTOH, when my 9 year old first heard it, it made him sad. It caused him to think about our recently passed dog Amber who he had loved dearly. To him, it expressed her simplicity and lack of concern for the future. A dog or cat does not worry about tomorrow. Every day is their entire life. We should learn something from them.
Either way, it can fill me with happiness. Or tears. Sometimes both.
In 2005 she released Amarantine. Next, 2008 saw And Winter Came, an album with a winter and Christmas theme. Along the way, she took time to sing May it Be for the Lord of the Rings.
And of course, Aniron, sung in the fictional Elvish language. (Enya sings in ten other real languages as well.)
Enya’s latest album, Dark Sky Island, was released in November of 2015. Seven years was a long time to wait for those of us who love her voice and style. The title comes from the island of Sark, in the English channel off the coast of Normandy, that was declared a “dark sky area”, free of light pollution. I’ll end this by letting her speak for herself.