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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Carnatic Music

This is a guide to finding background information, books, and recordings on Carnatic music.


Welcome to the Music & Performing Arts Library (MPAL) guide to Carnatic music research resources! 

Use the tabs to the left to navigate this guide, and don't hesitate to reach out to a librarian if you need extra help.

Depending on your research topic, you may also want to check out some of our other library guides. In particular, we are linking a few below that might be helpful.

What is Carnatic Music?

"Carnatic music or Karnāṭaka Saṃgīta is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is one of two main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions; the other sub-genre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form because of Persian and Islamic influences in North India. The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style." Carnatic Music (Wikipedia)

See also Karnatak music (Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians) (UIUC affiliates only)

To hear an example of Carnatic music, check out the video of Dr. M. Lalitha and M. Nandini below!

Tips for Exploring the Collection

Browsing the shelves for materials related to your topic can be a great way to identify items that may be useful to you! If you find one or two items in the catalog that seem promising, look on the shelves at the items surrounding them.

If you want to read more about call numbers and how to decipher them, check our guide to Classification Systems. If you're not sure where to go in the Library to browse one of these call number ranges, please ask us at the service desk and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction or walk you to the shelves! 

For search suggestions to browse the catalog, check out the next tab of this box!

Suggested Call Numbers

  • ML 338 - Carnatic music
  • ML 338.2 - History and criticism of 17th century music in India
  • ML 3748 - Folk music of India
  • M1808 - Carnatic music (Scores)

Search by Subject

Each item in the library catalog is assigned one or more subject headings to tell you what it is about. You can search by subject heading using the catalog's Advanced Search feature. 

To search by subject in the catalog:

  • Open the Library catalog and click on "Advanced Search" to the right of the search bar
  • Underneath "Search filters", you'll see that the default is set to "Any Field"
  • Click on the arrow next to "Any Field" and select "Subject" from the drop-down menu
  • Try a search with one of the subject headings recommended below
  • Once you've found a relevant book in the catalog, you can also use the subjects listed in the record to find additional related materials

Recommended Subject Headings

  • Carnatic music
  • Carnatic music--History and criticism
  • Carnatic music--Instruction and study
  • Carnatic music--Theory
  • Ragas--Analysis, appreciation

Resources on Campus

This guide collects a sampling of information, books, and recordings for the study of carnatic music, but it only scratches the surface of the resources available to you at UIUC. You may want to look beyond MPAL in the course of your research; in particular, the International and Area Studies Library and the Center for World Music are two other local resources you may want to explore!