Enya’s “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” Lyrics Meaning

The lyrics of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” paint a picture where the singer is fantasizing about sailing around the world with the addressee. Most of the locations mentioned are real-life places that can be accessed via sea, though a few are fictional also. And again the lyrics have somewhat of a dreamy, idealistic feel to them. Or another way of looking at them is as being more symbolic than literal.

And in that regard, this song is said to have two distinct meanings. One is quite obvious – it is intended to take the listener’s mind away from their actual environs, i.e. an experience tantamount to a mental excursion. Or as Roma Ryan, who serves as a lyricist on this song, explained, it is “a journey of the imagination”. Indeed Orinoco is the name of a massive river in South America. And the audience is entreated to “sail away” with the singer to distant lands which most likely they would never actually visit in real life.

What is Orinoco?

However, whether or not the title of this song is intended to reference said river is debatable. Rather, Orinoco was also the name of the studio, situated in London in fact, where Enya recorded this song. Indeed you will notice that there is a “Rob Dickins” referenced in the fourth verse, who is steering the imaginary vessel featured on the track. Rob Dickins was actually Enya’s label boss at WEA Records. And looking at it from this perspective, the lyrics are meant to be symbolic of the professional journey the songstress had undertaken alongside the likes of Dickins and her manager, Nicky Ryan.


But overall, the idea fans seem to have clung to is the first explanation of “Orinoco Flow”. That is they are drawn to it due to its fairytale-like quality.  And clearly that is one of the ways in which Enya intended the tune to be interpreted. But simultaneously there is also apparently a subtheme based on her voyage to international success.

Lyrics of "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)"

Facts about “Orinoco Flow”

Enya, a professional singer and songwriter from Ireland, also penned “Orinoco Flow”.

It was originally released, in Europe, on 15 October 1988 by WEA Records as the lead single from Enya’s second album. That album was titled “Watermark”. Shortly thereafter Geffen Records also released it in the United States.

And although it peaked at number 24 in America (on the Billboard’s Hot 100), it did a lot better in other parts of the world. For instance, “Orinoco Flow” topped the UK Singles Chart as well as replicating this feat in a few other countries. And generally speaking, it made it onto the music charts, usually being placed amongst the top 10, within approximately 15 nations.

“Orinoco Flow” also achieved Silver certification in the United Kingdom.

The aforementioned Nicky Ryan was not only Enya’s manager but also her producer. In fact he is the one who produced “Orinoco Flow”.

Popular Usage of “Orinoco Flow”

Throughout the years “Orinoco Flow” has been used regularly by major pop media productions. This includes being featured on a number of movies, including “Shrek Forever After” (2010) and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011). Furthermore, it has appeared in quite a few popular television programs, such as the following:

  •  “South Park” (1997)
  • “Black Mirror” (2016)

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