East Africa has considerable diversity and an abundance of different musical traditions. Yet despite this diversity, many of the countries face similar issues, from the effects of urbanisation to the threats of piracy, the lack of Intellectual Property enforcement and a lack of sector development.
The international cultural profile of East Africa has been much lower compared to West and Southern Africa, but this is changing. There is a growing identity to the region, especially around the East African Community (EAC) encompassing Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Slightly outside of this is Ethiopia, which although part of the COMESA (the Southern and East African common market) is not part of the EAC.
Across the region popular musicians from the early years of independence were less inspired by American music than their West African counterparts. Influences were taken from closer to home, including Arabic sounds from the coast, South African rhythms adopted in Tanzania and Kenya, and the predominance of Congolese Rumba. The exception to this is Ethiopia, which (aside from its love of reggae) has maintained its own unique repertoire and a traditional feel to its music. This musical distinctness as well as the existence of a professional group of musicians to play it, has led to a stronger international profile.