Born as Angelina Yeoward in present day UP's Aazamgarh, Gauhar Jaan was of Armenian descent. Her mother, Victoria Hemmings, was an Indian by birth and was a well-trained singer and dancer. After divorce with her husband, Victoria moved to Benaras along with a Muslim nobleman, 'Khursheed'. Eight-year-old Angelina accompanied her mother to the new city.
In Banaras, the mother and daughter converted into Islam. While Victoria changed her name to Malka Jaan, Angelina's name was changed to Gauhar Jaan.
Malka Jaan became and accomplished singer and Kathak dancer in Benaras and made a name for herself. Two years later, Malka Jaan along with her daughter moved to Calcutta and started performing in the courts of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.
It is in Calcutta that Gauhar Jaan started her training and became a proficient in Hindustani classical music, Keertan and Rabindra Sangeet, among other forms. She was trained under the founding members of Patiala Gharana of classical music - Kalu Ustad, Ustad Vazir Khan of Rampur, and Ustad Ali Baksh. Gauhar Jaan learnt Kathak from the legendary Brindadin Maharaj, the granduncle of Birju Maharaj and had lessons in Keertan from Charan Das.
She travelled across India and preformed in several cities. She was also invited to perform at the coronation of King George V in Delhi Durbar.
Gauhar Jaan also composed ghazals under the pen-name of 'Hamdam'.
In her final days, Gauhar Jaan moved to Mysore at the invitation of Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV. She was appointed a palace musician, however, she passed away within 18 months on January 17, 1930.