Enya: When Dreams Become Music

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Author: Montse Andreu
Source: Amazing (USA) 1996
Link: enya.org

Occasionally there appear in the musical panorama small or great marvels which take us to other worlds sometimes dreamy, sometimes romantic, ethereal, magical. This is the case of a great artist, Enya, who in her approximately fourteen years of a solo career (sixteen, if we count her two years in the band Clannad) has achieved an unprecedented success with each one of the CDs she has released: eight million copies were sold of her album Watermark (1988), which gave her the platinum award in fourteen countries, six times in Australia and twice in Norway; likewise, she sold 8.5 million copies of Shepherd Moons (1991), going platinum once again in 18 countries, eight times in Taiwan, four in Spain, and twice in Japan. Not to mention the number of times she has reached the top lists on countless radio stations all over the world, as well as her growing international popularity, as seen in the almost twenty million copies she has sold throughout her trajectory.

And we may wonder, how did she begin in music, how did her successful career develop? Enya, as she is artistically known, was born in Gweendore, in the county of Donegal, on the north-west of the Republic of Ireland, on May 17th., 1961, her given name being Eithne Ni Bhraonain. The sixth of nine children, after she left school she studied classical music. Her native tongue being Gaelic, in 1980 she joined her siblings Maire, Pol, and Ciaran in the band Clannad, with whom she toured Europe in different occasions, and also recorded two albums, in which she played the keyboards and contributed to the vocals. However, in 1982, she left the band, as she felt she could not exploit her full potential since she used to be relegated to a merely backing role. This fact did not allow her to express her creative genius the way she wished. Once Enya left the family clan, she would join Clannad's ex-producer, Nicky Ryan, who had also left the formation around the same dates, and both of them, together with Ryan's wife, Roma, would become a successful team.

Enya's solo career would start thanks to David Puttnam, who commissioned her to write the music for his movie The Frog Prince. Even though only two of her compositions would then be used for the film, this fact meant a certain degree of recognition in the adequate circles. When the BBC decided to make their television series The Celts in 1986, Enya was chosen to compose the soundtrack for the series, and the corresponding album was released in 1987, although then it would not get a great success in the list of the 100 best records in the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, it would attract Rob Dickins's attention, the manager of Warner Music UK, with whom Enya would sign her contract, just when she was about to do so with another label. Dickins decided to become the link Enya needed between her creative genius and the record industry as soon as he perceived the enormous potential Enya had to offer. Then her first solo single, Anywhere Is, was released. After it had reached the British top lists, this led to the recording of her album Watermark, which would give her immediate success, most specially when one of the songs, Orinoco Flow, became the first single to get her to Number One in the top lists from many countries.

The international popularity that Enya has achieved has been spurred further thanks to her work on television as well as in the movie soundtrack world. Apart from her soundtrack for the BBC series, she has also composed other movie soundtracks, like for instance The Age Of Innocence by Scorsese, or the one starred by Tom Cruise, Far And Away. Enya admits that the fact that she had started her career composing film soundtrack has led her to view all her compositions as different themes, since her music can create a landscape and a given mood with each composition. Writing movie soundtracks is an activity she has enjoyed a lot, and she hopes she will be able to return to this field.

After Watermark, Enya has released new albums, all and each one of them as successful as her first: Shepherd Moons, and her recent release The Memory of Trees, both of them in the same melodic, romantic, ethereal line, where her sensual voice combines perfectly well her Celtic roots and the infinite possibilities that the electronic instruments contribute to a whole which turns out to be harmonious, relaxing, subtle, full of mystery, dreamlike, intertwining a music which can accurately be labelled within the field of alternative musics, and whose magic attracts a wide range of listeners from all ages. As usual, her latest album also contains pieces sung in Latin, Spanish, Gaelic and English, as well as reflective piano pieces, together with other songs recorded in a multi-track environment, all of this emphasizing the typical classicism we can find in new age music, through instrumental fragments which may appear to have some oriental touches and the use of crystalline voices which recall her work as a traditional Irish composer. According to Enya, whenever she gets involved in a new project, she has no definite plan in fact, but only some musical ideas that she then develops, and she uses the language she feels more adequate at each given moment, when and in the way she feels like. Her album The Celts was re-released in 1992, reaching number ten in the Bristish lists.

Currently settled in Killiney, near Dublin, Enya has now her own studio, specially designed and built for her, in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey. If Enya decided to place her studio in this quiet area, it was precisely so because of the silence she can enjoy in this ideal site, viewing the mountains of Wicklow, with their impressive sights. As Enya herself claims, this silence is exactly what she needs to concentrate on her compositions.

Perhaps it is because of her tendency towards perfectionism, yet it's true she has never collaborated with other artists outside her own circle (except for Nicky and Roma Ryan), nor has she given any live performances at all, in spite of coming from a family of traditional musicians long involved to the folkloric roots of her nation, nor has she - apart from the re-released album The Celts - ever released further compilations of old material, nor any special anthologies of previously unreleased material like so many other artists have sometimes done. Enya only tends to write the pieces appearing in her albums, no more, no less, and usually it is she herself the one to play the different instruments used in her compositions, which means that each album takes her a long time to finish. For instance, it took her almost two years to release her last album, The Memory Of Trees. Nevertheless, lately Enya has been thinking of giving a live performance some day, perhaps moved by her growing popularity. Nicky Ryan, an expert sound engineer, claims that Industrial Light & Magic - the company owned by the director of Star Wars, George Lucas, who happens to be an enthusiastic fan of Enya's, has offered some suggestions as to how she could be presented in a live concert. Even so, and despite the fact that Enya has shown some interest in this, her cautious nature in this sense has not allowed for any definite agreements as to that, even though negotiations with a view to an eventual live concert have been taking place since the release of her album Shepherd Moons. Though such an expected event would be desirable indeed, since some live performances would possibly benefit her image, there is nothing definite in this respect, and so far in certain circles Enya is regarded as an eminently studio musician centered in the New Age styles.

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