When she’s not extolling the virtues of all things green, London artist Greentea Peng is actually one of the UK’s most exciting young musicians.
“Everything that is green is good, except money,” the artist recently told I-D magazine. So good, in fact, that the singer regularly describes her absolute favourite green thing, green tea, as peng. The word means hot, just in case you are not from the UK or are (God help you) over 30.
“One time in Peru I found the buffest green tea with the buffest packaging and it was called greentea seng,” the singer continues in the I-D interview. “Swap the S for a P and there we have it.”
Peng’s love affair with all things green evidently stretches to weed, too. The artist has several tattoos referencing the herb on her body. She has also confessed to smoking marijuana since the age of 13 and using the drug as a confidence booster when she was too nervous to shoot a video.
It is appropriate then that the artist’s music sounds like the perfect soundtrack to getting stoned. Fusing r’n’b, jazz and hip hop, Peng’s music is characterised by breathy vocals, mellow beats, dreamlike soundscapes, and a determinedly lo-fi production.
Chords waft by like pretty clouds, a cacophony of samples approximate the natural world, and there at the centre of it all is Peng – her wonderfully breathy voice draping everything with honey .
The artist wears her influences on her sleeve: vocally she recalls no one more than Erkah Badu, while the music sounds like a mix of Badu, Lauryn Hill and the Fugees,
Peng, real name Aria, was born in South London in 1995. She has described growing up surrounded by urban music artists such as Sean Paul. At 12 however, her family moved to Hastings. It was quite a shock for the 12 year old Londoner.
Finding herself surrounded by grungers, Peng was suddenly being exposed to bands such as The Clash and Talking Heads. Thankfully, her step father Jim was on hand to help her navigate the previously foreign musical waters of her new home.
Fifteen proved to be a difficult age for the singer. Plagued by depression and anxiety and lacking in self worth, Peng suddenly found that she had lost her connection to music, and with it her desire to sing.
Several years later, while still dealing with depression and anxiety and by now also using drugs, the singer decided to move to Mexico. It was a brave step for a young mixed race girl from South London. The trip would prove a massive success, however.
After six months in her new home, Peng suddenly felt the urge to start singing again. “I realised that’s where my healing was,” she told I-D magazine of the decision. “We underestimate how important it is to have a creative outlet.”
Peng began playing with a band, making as much as 1500 pesos a night. The gigs proved important in another way too. The young South Londoner finally knew what she wanted to do with her life.
Now 24, and with two critically acclaimed EPs behind her (Sensi and Rise), the artist is not only enjoying her beloved Green Tea again, she is also beginning to get used to the sweet taste of success.
Green Tea Peng will play at Earth, Hackney the 26th of November 2020. More information about the gig can be found here.
Information on other great music events in London can be found here: London’s best music events