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Who Can Say Where The Road Goes? 10 Enya Facts You Need To Know
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List & Guides

Who Can Say Where The Road Goes? 10 Enya Facts You Need To Know

Think you know all there is to know about this mysterious Irish singer-songwriter? Here are ten Enya facts which may surprise you.

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The statistics tell us that Enya is Ireland’s best-selling solo artist and the nation’s second-biggest-seller overall, after U2. Yet while she’s achieved success on a truly staggering scale, we actually know very little about this enigmatic star whose glorious landmark titles such as Watermark and Shepherd Moons have sold by the truckload, even though their creator has studiously avoided the treadmill of touring for almost four decades. With that in mind, we probe a little deeper and present ten essential Enya facts…

Listen to the best of Enya here, and check out the ten Enya facts you need to know, below.

1: She was born in an Irish Gaeltacht region

In Ireland, a Gaeltacht region is a part of the country where Irish, rather than English, is the primary language. Enya was born in one such region, Dore – a settlement in the parish of Gweedore, County Donegal – on 17 May 1961. In Irish, her birth name is Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin, which, when anglicised, translates to Enya Patricia Brennan. (“Enya” is the phonetic spelling of how “Eithne” is pronounced in her native Ulster dialect of Irish. Ní Bhraonáin translates to “daughter of Brennan”.

2: She excelled in painting during her teenage years

Between the ages of 11 and 17, Enya attended a strict convent college run by the Loreto order of nuns. She studied both music and art, but excelled in painting watercolour landscapes. However, she eventually succumbed to the pull of music, immersing herself in the sounds reverberating from Leo’s Tavern, the pub her father performed in in rural Donegal and which gave Enya’s family folk group, Clannad, their initial platform.

3: Enya’s first officially released recordings were with Clannad

The Irish word “Clannad” means “Family”, and the influential Irish folk group were just that. They formed during the 70s and, when Enya was invited to join them, on the cusp of the following decade, they also featured two of her brothers, Pol and Ciaran, plus her sister Maire and two uncles, Noel and Padraig. Playing keyboards and adding vocals, Enya appeared (but went uncredited) on their sixth album, 1981’s Crann Úll, and then performed on its follow-up, Fuaim, as a fully credited member.

4: Her first solo recordings featured on a limited edition cassette

For her first solo recordings, Enya recorded two piano instrumentals, An Ghaoth Ón Ghrian (Irish for “The Solar Wind”) and Miss Clare Remembers, at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin. The tracks were released in 1984 on Touch Travel, a limited-edition cassette sampler of artists then signed to the Touch label. She is credited under her birth name in the liner notes.

5: Enya rarely performs live, and never tours in the traditional sense

Enya has frequently expressed how difficult it is to recreate her intricate, studio-oriented sound onstage, but she is also naturally reclusive and well-known for her Nick Drake-esque aversion to live performance. She does, however, join her family for their annual midnight Mass choral performance in County Donegal, in which she participates each year, and stages other carefully selected live performances. For example, she promoted her 2015 album, Dark Sky Island, with a worldwide media tour largely made up of TV appearances.

6: She lives in a castle

In 1997, Enya bought a Victorian Grade A listed castellated mansion in Killiney, County Dublin, from which she can see the sea. Formerly known as Victoria Castle and Ayesha Castle, the singer renamed it Manderley Castle after the house in Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel, Rebecca. “It’s very inspiring to me,” the singer has said. “I just look at the view, and if it’s overcast and raining, no matter: I never tire of it.”

7: She has sung in at least ten different languages

Some artists are bilingual and have recorded versions of their hits in one or two different languages, but they’re lightweights compared to Enya. Though she sings primarily in English, Latin and Irish, Enya has also recorded tracks in Japanese, Spanish, French, Welsh and even Loxian, a language invented by her co-writer Roma Ryan, wife of producer Nicky Ryan. Additionally, for the soundtrack to 2001’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, Enya sang the Golden Globe-winning May It Be in both English and Tolkien’s fictional language Quenya, and recorded Aníron in another of Tolkien’s fictional languages, Sindarin.

8: Her signature hit, Orinoco Flow, wasn’t initially going to be a single

The final track written for Enya’s breakthrough second album, 1988’s Watermark, Orinoco Flow wasn’t composed with the charts in mind at all. However, after Warner Bros’ Rob Dickins jokingly asked the singer to produce a single (knowing full well she wasn’t about radio hits), Enya and her co-writers, Nicky and Roma Ryan, pushed Orinoco Flow forward. The song became an international Top 10 hit, went to No.1 in the UK for three weeks and effectively turned Enya into an international star.

9: A minor planet has been named in her honour

In 1991, a minor planet from the asteroid belt previously known as 1978 WC was renamed 6433 Enya. Approximately seven kilometres (4.3 miles) in diameter, 6433 Enya was first discovered on 18 November 1978, by Czech astronomer Antonín Mrkos at the Kleť Observatory in the Czech Republic; the planet orbits the Sun in the inner asteroid belt once every three years and eight months. In the overall scheme of things, Enya is one of relatively few people to have a planet named after them, and she sits among an elite cadre of musicians such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Brian Eno and Motörhead’s Lemmy, upon whom similar honours have been bestowed.

10: She has received not one, but two honorary doctorates

Having won Grammys, Billboard Awards, an Ivor Novello and even a Golden Globe, Enya has collected a well-deserved string of music-industry awards. However, she has also received two honorary doctorates, both of which came in 2007. She received the first from Galway’s National Union Of Ireland in June of that year, and the second from the University Of Ulster a month later. Both awards recognise Enya’s services to music and the creative industries, and the singer received the second one on the same day as novelist Martin Amis was honoured by the same faculty.

Now you’ve learned these ten Enya facts, check out our twenty best Enya songs of all time.

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