Hindustani music, one of the two principal types of South Asian classical music, is found mainly in the northern three-fourths of the subcontinent, where Indo-Aryan languages are spoken. The other principal type, Carnatic music, is found in the Dravidian-speaking region of southern India.
The two systems diverged gradually, beginning in the 13th century, when the Islamic conquest of northern parts of the subcontinent introduced highly influential Arab and Persian musical practices that then merged with Hindu traditions. The influences from Muslim cultures played virtually no role in the development of Carnatic music.
Northern India shares with the south the use of ragas (melodic frameworks for improvisation and composition), the rhythmic principles of tala (cyclic metric patterns sometimes of great complexity), and the practice of nonmetric, rhythmically “free” improvisation. Although vocal music plays an important role, instrumental music is more important in Hindustani music than it is in Carnatic.