One of the oldest systems of music in the world, Carnatic or classical south indian music is a very complex system that requires a great deal of training, both artistically and technically. Classical south indian music is based on a system of ragas (melodic scales) and talas (rhythmic cycles), and is generally highly devotional. Like most Indian music is contains a great deal of improvisation, as well as a traditional repertoire. Carnatic music calls these: ‘Kalpita’ (literally meaning ‘that which is taught’) and the creative (improvisational) aspects are called ‘Manodharma’. Every performing artiste learns both the aspects of classical music. He or she not only has a repertoire of several (sometimes hundreds) pieces of well known songs, but he or she also knows how to create music.
If you’re just dipping your toes into the vast pool of south indian classical music, here are a few good places to begin: