[6 July 2009]
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.