Begum Akhtar was born in Faizabad on 7th Oct, 1914 and got attracted to music at a young age of seven when she listened to songs of Chandra Bai. She trained under Ustad Imdad Khan, the great sarangi exponent from Patna, and later under Ata Mohammed Khan of Patiala. She also travelled to Calcutta and learnt music from classical famous artists like Mohammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Khan of Lahore, and finally she became the disciple of Ustad Jhande Khan.
Her good looks made her a perfect choice for movies as in those days most of the actresses used to sing also. She did act in few movies but music always remained her first choice. In 1945 she got married to a lawyer from Lucknow and became Begum Akhtar from Akhtari Bai Faizabadi. She was not allowed to sing in her conservative family and she did not appear on stage for almost 5 years. Her health deteriorated as she got separated from music. Doctors prescribed her to return to singing and she made a comeback in 1949.
Here are some of the Gazals which continue to entertain us decades after she passed away on 30th Oct, 1974.
Mere Humnafas Mere Humnawa
Woh ho ham mein tum mein qarar tha
Aye mohabbat tere anjaam pe rona aaya
Saiyan gaye pardes
Begum Akhtar sings for Kaifi Azmi
Ye na thi hamari kismat
Ulti ho gayi sab tadbeerein