Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)
by Enya

Album: Watermark (1988)
Charted: 1 24


  • The Orinoco River flows across South America. It is about 1,300 miles long and goes through parts of Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil. The song's title refers to Orinoco Studios in London, where this and the rest of the Watermark album was recorded. It is not known if it was a dual reference to the South American river as well.
  • This was Enya's first hit. It got a lot of exposure and was released as a single after getting airplay on The Steve Wright Show on BBC Radio One in the UK. Enya went on to become the best-selling female singer in the world.
  • The words "We can steer, we can near, with Rob Dickens at the wheel" refer to Rob Dickins, the head of her record label WEA. Dickins is listed as a producer on the album. In an article published December 13, 2008, Dickins said: "When I signed Enya, her manager/producer Nicky Ryan said, 'You're not going to push us for singles, are you?' It wasn't that kind of music. After we'd made the Watermark album, I said as a joke, 'Nicky, where's the single?' A week later Nicky rang up and said, 'We've got it!' Got what? 'We've got the single!'

    He sent over what became 'Orinoco Flow.' There was no middle eight, and 'Sail away' was after every line - it drove me crazy, but there was something there that could be worked on. Orinoco was the name of the studio and I think they saw me as the captain of the ship. The whole thing was a metaphor for a journey for all of us.

    I was in charge of the record company for the UK and Ireland, but we never had any Irish music. Someone said, 'You like Clannad, you'd like this soundtrack album this ex-Clannad member has done.' She'd done the music for the BBC series The Celts. I loved it and played it every night. We met at an Irish awards ceremony and I said, 'You must do a vocal record.' The record company thought I was mad, but I said what became a famous quote - 'Sometimes you sign acts to make money and sometimes you sign acts to make music.' In the week of release, Tower Records phoned up to say that when they played the album in the shop they sold 45 copies - almost everyone in the shop had bought the record. It was unheard of. It went from 29 to five, then to #1 and we sold bucketloads of albums. It was totally rags to riches.
    It's one of the things I'm most proud of. Funnily enough, I hadn't even noticed the lyric until they printed the album. It was embarrassing. But when it went to #1 I thought, 'I'm in the lyric of a number one song, how fabulous.' All these years later, if I hear that line 'Rob Dickins at the wheel' I can't help smiling." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    John - Watford, England
  • The lyricist on this track was Roma Ryan, the wife of the song's producer Nicky Ryan. In 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Ryan said: "Orinoco Flow was a very difficult song to work on, because we had it shelved a few times. We would work on it for a while, leave it, then go back to it again, but in the end we said 'This is good.' All the time it was an album track and only at the very end was it decided it might be good as a single."
  • The video was an extension of the Watermark album sleeve. Enya commented (also in 1000 UK #1 Hits), "We were so happy with the cover which was basically a picture of me, but there layers and layers of beautiful imagery revolving around me that were hand painted on, and this is what we achieved with the video."
  • In a bit of cinematic dissonance similar to the "Singin' In The Rain" scene in A Clockwork Orange or the "Stuck In The Middle With You" scene in Reservoir Dogs, this song was used in a violent scene in the 2011 movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. According to the film's director David Fincher, they liked the idea of the villain enjoying music when he kills, and the star of the movie Daniel Craig dialed up this song on his iPod. They felt it was a great fit and used the song for the scene.
  • Despite this song's success, many listeners had no idea what Enya looked like, or even if "Enya" was the name of a singer or a band. To protect her privacy, she kept a low profile and did minimal publicity.
  • In the first two episodes of the 2019 Netflix series Living With Yourself, "Orinoco Flow" is the motif for Paul Rudd's character as he goes through a cloning process. The song has also been used in these TV shows:

    Brooklyn Nine-Nine ("Crime & Punishment" - 2017)
    The Last Man on Earth ("When the Going Gets Tough" - 2017)
    Black Mirror ("Hated in the Nation" - 2016)
    Cougar Town ("Letting You Go" - 2010)

    And these movies:

    Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018)
    Eighth Grade (2018)
    Shrek Forever After (2010)

Comments: 15

  • Lea from Kansas City, MoTo me, the song has always been about her rising in her career, and paying tribute to those who had helped her become who she is. The magical water journey is a mesmerizing audio accompaniment to the underlying sentiment of gratitude. Her voice is beautiful.
  • Jeffrey from TexasThis song relaxes my mind in ways no other ever has. Enya has the voice of an angel. When my schizophrenia gets bad, just a few songs from her balances my mind in ways no meds can. My voices subside and harmony engages me. All hail Enya.
  • Melinda from AustraliaI was mesmerised by this song in 1988. Apart from it being a high brow classical departure from the usual pop stuff that was around in the UK at the time. I wholly got into this song. Figuring out it was about a powerful river the Orinoco Flow I thought about for the first time, about the beauty and the attraction of water in general. Cause the song feels like you are rushing and tumbling with the river. And sailing. Sounds weird. But I'd never heard anything like music like that song before. Nobody had. It just came out of left field. And it was one of those songs that had broad appeal. Old and young really liked it. It's haunting in a Wuthering Heights Kate Bush way.
  • Brad from Topeka, KsI remember the first time I heard this song. It had just been released and one afternoon, I turned on MTV (when they actually played videos). I had missed maybe 10 seconds of the opening, but I sat through the rest of the video thinking "Oh my God! Who is this? This is amazing!" I got to the end of the video and wrote down song title and album. I actually knew her name from her speaking on the song 'Never Get Old' from Sinead O'Connor's first album, The Lion and the Cobra. Anyway, I went out and bought Watermark that very day and I have been a huge fan ever since. That was early 1989.
    This song to me is a journey...a journey that began that day when I discovered Enya on MTV. She, in my opinion, has created some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. Orinoco Flow will always hold a special place in my heart.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhYou really get the feeling that you're going on a journey when you hear this song. The tune, the words, Enya's voice transport you, even if you're just driving down the road listening to it on your car stereo.
  • Brennan from Berlin, GermanyThis song ignited a wanderlust in me. Curious about the places mentioned in the song, I tracked each down in an atlas. Soon flipping through the pages and realizing how much there is to see in the world, I went backpacking in Europe. Now I live here.
  • Shingami from Lusaka, ZambiaOh yeah, totally love this song its one of her first songs i had and the reason i fell in love with Enyas music. The woman is gifted. Its an all out beautiful song and thanks for the geography lesson i just loved the song but now I know where it comes from.
  • James from Jacksonville, Flit makes me want to sailing
  • Michael Chambers from Houston, TxI heard this song when it first came out. However I could never catch the title. Every once in a while I would hear it but still could never catch the title. Somehow the song has a connection with my soul. It has haunted me all these years. On Sunday, 6/7/09, I heard it on the radio again but still couldn't catch the title. I made a note of the time it played, and the next day emailed the radio station and they sent me the name of the song. I bought the song from iTunes. I am now complete. My thanks go to Enya & her beautiful voice & spirit and to everyone who played a part in the song's production.
  • Lisa from Mississauga, OnYou need to hear the Libera version of this song. It will blow you away.
  • Vicki from Kissimmee, FlI love the Celtic Woman version of this song! it is one of the best out there!
  • Elson from Los Angeles, CaThis song is just about the dream of traveling the world freely. It sounds like the only line missing from this song is, "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?!"
  • Stephanie from Ellicott City, Mdmy mom loves this song. unfortunetly, she's one of those that if she likes a song, instead of playing it every now and again, she'll put the CD on repeat play. non-stop. after hearing this far too many times on car trips, i now want to curl into the fetal position and beg for it to stop when i hear it.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InI love Enya's music. It really is soothing and very emotional. She has some unique videos as well.
  • Steve from Hamilton, CanadaWith the exception of a stretch where it forms the border with Colombia, the Orinoco flows entirely within Venezuela. Its source is just north of the border with Brazil.
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