Enya sings in a tongue from a 'distant planet'

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Author:Jan Battles
Source: The Sunday Times, November 27, 2005
Link: The Sunday Times

SOMETIMES words are not enough — well, English ones anyway. Enya, the reclusive Irish artist, has invented a new language after deciding that English was too “obtrusive” for her lyrics.

The Dalkey-based singer also rejected Gaelic and Latin, both of which she used on previous records. So a quarter of the songs on Amarantine, her new album, are in a tongue called Loxian, which she devised with her lyricist Roma Ryan.

Ryan didn’t simply make up words to match the sounds being made by Enya, but developed a new alphabet of arrows, lines and curves as well as a cultural and historical back-story about the race who speak it.

Enya and Ryan describe the invented tongue as “a futuristic language from a distant planet”. The Loxians, they tell us, live in space and are looking out at the stars wondering if there is anyone else out there or if they are alone in the universe.

Terry Dolan, professor of English at University College Dublin, said: “It’s a very eclectic language. It seems to choose elements at random. It brings in a whole wealth of different language forms such as Anglo-Saxon, Hindu, Welsh and, I think, Siberian Yupik as well.

“It is very mixum-gatherum linguistically — it seems to have no form of grammar or word order which has very limited comprehensibility.”

The script resembles several existing languages, he reckons. “They’ve drawn on Tolkien, on Runic language and there are elements of Pitman shorthand as well. A lot of thought has gone into it.”

A lot of money may yet be made from it. The language’s script features beside its English translation on the sleeve notes of Amarantine, the Grammy winner’s sixth album which was released last week, and already fans are trying to decipher it. One wrote on a website last week: “I certainly hope Enya, Nicky and Roma (Ryan) continue with creating songs in Loxian. The language has completely intrigued me. Heck, I’m willing to pick up “Loxian for Dummies” if the book even existed.”

Which is probably what the trio is hoping for. Ryan is now set to publish a book called Water Shows the Hidden Heart in which she will chart the development of the new language and explain the story behind the three Loxian songs on Amarantine.

Enya told BBC Radio 4 last week that Loxian was created specially for the album. “I always feel when the melody sounds right with whatever language, I feel fine,” she said. “We spend a lot of time looking for the right language for the melody I have written. English can be a little bit obtrusive.”

Roma came up with the language after Enya struggled on one of the songs, Water Shows the Hidden Heart. “I tried it in English, in Gaelic and Latin and then she came in with the fictional language,” said Enya. “The main influence would be from the sounds I sing.” In Loxian the title of the song is pronounced Syoombrraya.

Two of the other 12 tracks are also performed in Loxian. Less than a Pearl becomes Heah Viiya in Loxian while Ea Hymm Llay Hey is The River Sings. One of the songs features in radio advertisements promoting the album. Another song on the album, Sumiregusa, is in Japanese.

The impetus for the new language came from Enya and Roma’s work on songs for the first film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. May it Be, the theme tune, and Aniron, a love song, both featured Elvish, languages invented by author JRR Tolkien. “I suppose it goes back to working on Lord of the Rings, which was a fantastic project,” said Enya.

The singer has often stated that her act would not exist without her longtime collaborators husband and wife team, Nicky and Roma Ryan. Enya sings, writes and plays all the music, Roma composes the lyrics while Nicky produces and arranges the tracks.

The arrangement has proved hugely successful: Enya has amassed an estimated fortune of €100m and sold 65m albums worldwide. The singer’s last album released five years ago sold 13m copies worldwide and is her best seller.

Dave Fanning, the 2FM DJ, said: “There is this whole mystery that surrounds Enya. It’s an amazing marketing device so if she has invented a new language, fair play to her.”

Each of Enya’s albums has outsold the previous one: Watermark, the 1988 album sold 8m copies. Three years later Shepherd Moons had sales of 10m and earned Enya her first Grammy. She took another music industry Oscar for 1995’s The Memory of Trees.

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