Carnatic music is a style of classical music that is most recognized as originating from the southern states of India including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is quite different from Hindustani music, which is the other recognized classical genre of music in India. Hindustani music, though originating from ancient Hindu traditions, carries Persian and Islamic influences. One of the defining characteristics of Carnatic music is the emphasis on vocal training and singing. Most Carnatic music is composed to be sung, and even when played on instruments it is to be performed in a style of singing.
Both Carnatic and Hindustani music rely on two main elements: the melody of the song called ‘raga’, and the rhythm associated with the melody, called ‘tala’. Carnatic music lends itself very well to improvisation but is usually taught through the use of compositions. Carnatic music is also performed with a small group of musicians, the main performer who is usually a vocalist, a melodic instrumental accompaniment, a percussive instrument, and a tanpura which is a droning key note that plays through the song.