Aurelia - Henry Olonga November 19, 2006

Nearly breaking free

Apart from his cricketing career and the death threats he received in Zimbabwe - culminating in his eventual exile - Henry Olonga's other claim to fame is his music




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Apart from his cricketing career and the death threats he received in Zimbabwe - culminating in his eventual exile - Henry Olonga's other claim to fame is his music. A talented tenor, he was spotted by the London-based Australian composer and conductor, Barrington Pheloung after appearing on the BBC. However, his first album, aurelia, is a move away from his tenor-cum-gospel upbringing. It's Boyzone meets Westlife, Henry Olonga style.

Aurelia is the latin for chrysalis, or the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, several of which can be seen in the sleeve notes. However the cover also has a mystical, ghostly green depiction of Aurelia Borealis: the magnificent Northern Lights. Is it an insect in change or an electrical discharge? Either way, both could describe Olonga's turbulent life.

The music is accessible, modern and shiny and is a good example of what he is capable of as a singer. Also, the influence of Robbie Bronnimann as his producer is unmistakable. Bronnimann has mixed and produced for the Sugababes, Howard Jones and other acts and aurelia is as much his work as Olonga's.

Indeed it's difficult to tell how much influence Olonga had on the 10 tracks, each of which are named with a wistful longing to a better, safer and happier time. "You Deserve," "Rise Again" and "Make It All Count" could describe his career as a cricketer quite aptly.

It's equally difficult to know its intended market. Teenage girls might enjoy the syrupy lyrics and gentle nature of the album, but fans of Olonga's voice might be better off waiting for his second album which, he promises, will bridge popular music with classical. He is nothing if not a charismatic, determined character and, after all his trials, this is an impressive first album. But unlike the chrysalises littered in the sleeve notes, he hasn't quite broken free - yet.

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo