Kerala with its rich traditional, vocal and instrumental music has enriched the cultural heritage of India. The ancient population for the propitiation of the deities of nature developed music. Koothu, Koodiyattam, Ashtapathiyattam, Krishnanattam, Ramanattam, Kathakali etc. gave impetus to music as in all these performances songs had a place of pride.
Kerala having an enviable record in the field of folk and light music, was enriched by the Vadakkan Pattukal, The Thekkan pattukal, Kalyanappattukal, Mappila pattukal etc. Further, numerous songs were composed in connection with, the 'kaikottikkali', 'Kummi', 'Kolattam', 'Ayappan pattu' etc The boat songs or 'Vanchipattukal' also come under this category of songs. The feastivals as Onam, Thiruvathira, Pooram etc has their own songs. In recent days the songs composed for the Malayalam theatre and cinema are very popular.
An indigenous classical music was developed in the temples of Kerala in the wake of the increasing popularity of the Jayadeva's 'Gita Govinda' or 'Ashtapathi'. Sopanasangitham is sung by the side of the steps (Sopanam) of Temple, with the accompaniment of the drum called 'Idakka'. The sopanasangitam in its traditional form is seen at its best among the Marars and Kurups, who were hereditary experts in sopanasangitam. Now in Kerala, this form of music is very rare and only in a few places like Guruvayoor, Vaikkom, Ambalappuzha, Thrissur,Chottanikkara, Thrippunithura Thrippayar etc. Njaralathu Ramapothuval was a lading artist in this field. The Kathakali padas compossed by a galaxy of scholars like Irayimman Thampy and the thullal songs of Kunchan Nambiar also contributed considerably to the growth of the musical culture of Kerala.
A musician and a composer of high caliber, Swathi thirunal was a generous patron of music and musicians. His contributions helped Malayalam to gain an important place in the field of Karnatic. His court was adorned by the gifted musicians of the age, Parameswara Baghavather of Palaghat and Maliyekkal Krishna Marar. He composed numerous Karnatic and Hindustani songs in popular ranges and tunes. Apart from Swathithirunal, there were other distinguished local musicans namely, Shadkala Govinda Marar, a native of Ramamangalam near Muvattupuzha with a celestial voice. Irayimman Thampi, a close associate and composer of great merit. Even after the age of Swathithirunal, the tradition of kerala music continued unsullied. The names prevalent in this field were Kuttikunju thankachi, K.C Kesavamenon and Attur Krishnapisharoti, Kuttamathu, Yoganandadasa and musicians like Vina Kalyanakrishna bhagavather, Plaghat Mani Ayar and Chembai vaidyanatha Bhagavather.
The instrumental music of kerala is vivid and colourful with a large number of musical instruments; Mridangam, Dolak, Udukku, Chenda, Timila, Edakka, Takil and a few others represent the percussion type. Nadaswaram, Kombu, Kuzhal, Mughavina etc the wind instruments and the stringed instruments, Vina, Tamburu, Sarangi, Violin and Swarabi. The Chendamelam has become indispensable for all temple festivals of Kerala. 'Thayampaka' is another typical temple vadya. 'Panchavadyam', unique temple art, which is a combination of sounds menacing from five principal musical instruments, Madhalam, Edakka, Thimila, Kombu and Elathalam; in addition to this two auxiliaries are also used, sankhu and kuzhal.