Kerala has a rich music tradition like other south Indian states which has great contribution to the cultural heritage of India. Most of the music of Kerala is poetry driven and Kerala has also fertile tradition in carnatic music though it has its origin in Tamil Nadu. The ancient people developed a music form which was sung to placate the deities of nature. The performing arts are played with songs and hence Koothu, Koodiyattam, Ashtapathiyattam, Krishnanattam, Ramanattam, Kathakali etc. have all have own songs. The Kathakali padas and the Thullal songs of Kunchan Nambiar also have great contribution to the growth of music culture in Kerala.
Kerala Folk Music :
The folk music of Kerala was ameliorated by the medieval ballads like Vadakkan Pattukal, Thekkan Pattukal, wedding songs Kalyana Pattukal, Muslim folklore songs Mappila Pattukal, etc. Some dance forms have also origin of folk songs which are composed in connection with the dances like Kaikottikkali, Kummi, Kolattam, Ayappan Pattu, etc.The boats song also come into this category. The festivals such as Onam, Thiruvathira, and Pooram which are backbone of Kerala culture have their own songs. Folk music of Kerala is now part of the Malayalam theatre and cinema.
Sopana Sangeetham (Temple music) :
Sopana Sangeetham is an indigenous classical music developed in the temples of Kerala. This music form was developed when Jayadeva's 'Gita Govinda' or 'Ashtapathi got popularity. These songs are sung in the temples with the drum beat of Idakka. The temple musicians who sing Sopana music are known as Maaran. This temple music is now rarely found in places like Guruvayoor, Vaikom, Ambalappuzha, Thrissur, Chottanikkara, Thripunithura, Thrippayar, etc. The leading artist of Sopana music is Njaralathu Ramapothuval.
Swathi Thirunal Kritis (a patron of art & music) :
Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma was a great patron of art and music. Many renowed musicians were invited to his court. Musicians like Parameswara Baghavather of Palaghat and Maliyekkal Krishna Marar embellished his court. The other musicians of Swathi Thirunal age are Shadkala Govinda Marar, a native of Ramamangalam and Irayimman Thampi, a composer of great merit. The instrumental music player who adorned the court of maharaja is Ananthapadmanabha Goaswami, popularly known as Meruswami who is an exponent of Harikatha and Hindustan music. And due to Swathi Thirunal’s fascination for Hindustani music he welcomed a group of Hindustani artistes in his palace.
Other renowned musicians after the age of Swathi Thirunal are Kuttikunju Thankachi, K. C Kesavamenon and Attur Krishnapisharoti, Kuttamathu, Yoganandadasa, Vina Kalyanakrishna Bhagavather, Palghat Mani Ayar and Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavather.
Instrumental Music :
Kerala is rich in instrumental music and the main musical instruments are Mridangam, Dolak, Udukku, Chenda, Timila, Edakka, Takil. The wind instruments are Nadaswaram, Kombu, Kuzhal, Mughavina and the stringed instruments are Vina, Tamburu, Sarangi, Violin and Swarabi.
The temple vadyas are Chendamelam and Thayampaka. The unique temple art called Panchavadyam is a combination of sounds produced from five principal musical instruments--Madhalam, Edakka, Thimila, Kombu and Elathalam.
Mappila Pattukal (Muslim devotional folklore) :
Mappila Pattukal is a devotional folklore of the Mappila Muslim community. These Mappila songs are a fusion of Arab and elements of local music. Even the language used in these songs is a mixture of Arab, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit and Kannada. The history of Mappila songs dates back to 700 years. The Mappila songs of early period are mostly devotional songs which are lyrical, imaginative and humanistic. In rituals and ceremonies these songs are sung. The basic themes of these songs are love, heroism and devotion to God. The working people belong to the Mappila community sing these songs to overcome the monotony of daily life.
Christian Songs :
Malyalam Christian devotional songs are a part of Kerala music. Though there is a touch of western music in these songs yet is tune is not at all western. A touch of folk tune of Kerala is with these songs. The aristocratic church songs are sung in the churches.