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.