Mahnaz Begum was born at Mahmudabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, in 1958. Her family migrated to Pakistan in the late 1950s. She received her initial training in music from her mother Kajjan Begum who was also a singer. She started her career as a playback singer in the early 1970s. Saleem Gilani, the director general of Radio Pakistan, Karachi first spotted her doing a concert at her college and helped her. Mehdi Hassan and his elder brother Pandit Ghulam Qadir trained her at this radio station for about a month. Her melodious voice, musical training and control over her voice made her popular among the Pakistani film music directors. She is thirteen times winner of the prestigious Nigar Award (Film Awards) for best playback singer. She sang a variety of genres but specialized in ghazal, thumri, dadra, khayal, drupad and reciting salam, noha and marsiya.