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(Echo Beach; US: 3 Mar 2009; UK: Available as import)

The concept of Italian reggae might seem a little askew, something akin to Scandinavian gangsta rap or Chinese polka. But the members of Smoke have as much ganja in their blood as they do wine and ragu, and have created a faithful love letter to their collective affinity for Jamaican culture on their second full-length, Routes. Some spots might be a little too sweet for the discerning reggae fan who might pass the group’s music off as a little too cruise ship-like for their tastes, most notably “Save All the Kids”, their noble yet corny homage to Ishmael Beah’s book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. However, they are offset by an authenticity that recalls early Horace Andy or Niney The Observer-era Dennis Brown and a political agenda that certainly aims to rattle the cages of the establishment.  If blended into a mix by the right selector, tracks like the pro-Africa “Ken Saro Wiwa” and the China-shaming “Iron Man Wang” would fit perfectly amongst the dirtiest dirt-floor classics rocking the sound systems of Kingston.


Ron Hart is currently enjoying his 11th year as a professional music journalist. In addition to PopMatters, he has also written for such publications as CMJ,,, The Village Voice, Gear, Paper, SHOUT NY,, Blender, Yellow Rat Bastard, Good Times, Paste, and among others. He is also the editor and publisher of the Interboro Rock Tribune, a free NYC music zine now in its 6th year in print. Please give us traffic on our website at

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