The language of the songs used for Kathakali is Manipravalam. Though most of the songs are set in ragas based on the microtone-heavy Carnatic music, there is a distinct style of plain-note rendition, which is known as the Sopanam style. This typically Kerala style of rendition takes its roots from the temple songs which used to be sung (continues even now at several temples) at the time when Kathakali was born.
As with the acting style, Kathakali music also has singers from the northern and southern schools. The northern style has largely been groomed by Kerala Kalamandalam in the 20th century. Kalamandalam Neelakantan Nambisan, an over-arching Kathakali musician of those times, was a product of the institute. His prominent disciples include Kalamandalam Unnikrishna Kurup, Kalamandalam Gangadharan, Kalamandalam P.G. Radhakrishnan, Rama Varrier, Madambi Subramanian Namboodiri, Tirur Nambissan, Kalamandalam Sankaran Embranthiri, Kalamandalam Hyderali, Kalamandalam Haridas, Subramanian, Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan and Kalamandalam Bhavadasan. The other prominent musicians of the north feature Kottakkal Vasu Nedungadi, Kottakkal Parameswaran Namboodiri, Kottakkal P.D. Narayanan Namboodiri, Kottakkal Narayanan, Kalamandalam Anantha NarayananKalamandalam Sreekumar Palanad Divakaran, Kalanilayam Rajendran, Kolathappilli Narayanan Namboodiri, Kalamandalam Narayanan Embranthiri, Kottakkal Madhu, Kalamandalam Babu Namboodiri, Kalamandalam Harish and Kalamandalam Vinod. In the south, some of whom are equally popular in the north these days, include Pathiyur Sankarankutty. Southerner musicians of the older generation include Cherthala Thankappa Panikker, Thakazhi Kuttan Pillai, Cherthala Kuttappa Kurup, Thanneermukkam Viswambharan and Mudakkal Gopinathan.