A minute of conversation with Greentea Peng (London, 26 years old) is enough to understand that this person moves on his own frequency. It’s a Tuesday in June, days before the release of your first album, Man Made, and the singer, Aria Wells if we call her by the name of her identity card, is taking a bath while pontificating with a deep and relaxing contralto voice. She has been compared to Amy Winehouse or Erykah Badu and has entered the Sounds of 2021 list, which the BBC draws up to predict who will be the next music stars. It would be forgivable if all this went to his head, but the truth is that he does not seem to be fazed. It would seem that almost nothing changes her.
He discovered his vocation as a soloist when he lived in Mexico. She had traveled there to stay with friends through a dark period, found work at a yoga retreat, and performed karaoke one night. “It was the first thing I did in a long time that made me feel good,” he says. Then she began writing music and forging a career with what she calls psychedelic R&B. Back in the UK, he reached the general public through YouTube. Your song Downers accumulated 10 million visits.
There is a lot of contradiction in the image that the Zoom returns. Peng is covered in tattoos, face included, and speaks with a strong South London accent. However, he is as Zen as a Buddhist monk. He is on the verge of huge commercial success with a major label and preaches the dismantling of the system. In his highly anticipated debut he sings about mistrust in governments and about the revolution: how does a critic of the system experience a pandemic that forces him to entrust himself to a hardened system to save his life? “It was intense,” he concludes. “We made the album at a time when I felt like I was going down a rabbit hole. It seemed surreal to me ”.
Wells was in Taiwan when Wuhan began lockdown in 2020, and he returned to London to shoot a video, precisely titled Ghost Town, ghost city. “After that, London literally became a fucking ghost town, so I had to make a conscious effort to keep my vibration high,” he confesses. This juxtaposition of spiritual mantras and rhythmic cockney slang is what gives Greentea its unique blend. It took its name from a Peruvian tea box with the image of an attractive woman (peng is the London slang term for pretty.) He appears to have his head in the clouds, possibly in a Tibetan temple, but his feet are stepping on the ground.
“Confinement was a revealing, reaffirming period, and at the same time disturbing. As soon as he arrived, I escaped from London. I got in my van and went to the field. I tried my best to get back to nature ”. Another contradiction of Wells is his love-hate relationship with London, evident in his lyrics. The album was written between the country and the city, and the tug of war is a source of tension. “I fucking love London,” he says. “That is why I am so moved by her disappearance. The diversity and spirit found in its streets cannot be compared to anywhere else in the world, but in the city there is darkness, and it is there that I write most of my songs. If you’re aiming for a higher plane, your album title also allows for multiple readings. “It has feminist energy, but something man-made is also something that is not natural. The album is a product of 2020, it is a product of chaos. It is music for the revolution. But love also has to always be there. It ended up being less ‘to hell with the Government’, which it also is, obviously, and more about the vibrations that heal and about unity ”.
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