The name of Begum Akhtar has a special significance and meaning for ghazal. She was barely seven when she was captivated by the music of Chandra Bai, an artiste attached to a touring theatre group.With initial training from Imdad Khan, a sarangi player from Patna, Faizabad-born Akhtari began her musical career. She came to be groomed as a classicist by traditional training from Ata Mohammad Khan of Patiala and Abdul Wahid Khan of Lahore in subsequent years.
Begum Akhtar's good looks and sensitive voice brought her under the spell of the silver screen in the early years of her career. But, When she chanced to hear great singers like Gauharjaan and Malakjaan, she decided to forsake the glamour of the film world to take to music. And she never looked back. Her supreme artistry in light classical music had its moorings in the tradition of pure classicism. This is the secret behind her finesse for setting her repertoire to basically classical modes, which comprised a variety of simple as well as complex ragas.
She was honoured the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for vocal music and a mere Padma Shri a few years before her death. Ironically, the Padma Bhushan came to be conferred on her posthumously. But to the people at large, Begum Akhtar was the "Queen of Ghazals", and it is this acclaim that she cherished most.