Begum Akhtar was born on 7th of October, 1914 in Bharat Kund in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. At a very young age she was so influenced by the music of Chandra Bai, a theatre artist. She then went on to train under Sarangi exponent Ustad Imdad Khan. She also learnt under Patiala's legendary Ata Mohammed Khan.
Begum Akhtar's mother took her to Calcutta, where she got training under Lahore's Abdul Waheed Khan and Mohammad Khan before becoming a disciple of Ustad Jhande Khan.
She staged her first performance at the age of 15, and was praised by famous Sarojini Naidu for her singing talent. Encouraged by the 'Nightingle Of India', Begum Akhtar continued her journey in the Hindustani classical music. She is well-known for her music in the genres of Ghazals, Thumris and Dadra, among others.
She was also crowned with the title of Mallika-e-Ghazal.
Begum Aktar's good looks and mermerizing voice also landed her a few roles in cinemas in the 1930s. Among the notable films she worked in include Mumtaz Beghum (1934), Jawaani Ka Nasha (1935), Raaj Haan's King for a Day (1933) and Satyajit Ray's Jalsaghar (1958). In the movies she used to sing her own songs.
Earlier known as Akhtaribai, she married a barrister from Lucknow, Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi and started to be known as Begum Akhtar. She performed in All India Radio regularly and is also known for her timeless Bengali classic "Jochona Koreche Aari".
Begum Akhtar passed away in Ahmedabad on 30 October, 1974. She was in the city for a concert and fell ill while staging a performace. The Legendary classical singer was awarded Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Padma Bhushan.