Maung Sa was born 28 October 1766 (10th waning of Thadingyut 1128 ME) at Migyaungtet Chaung village, near Sagaing to a family line of courtiers more than two hundred years old. His father Pauk Kyaw was a son of the Royal Household Guards, and his mother Nyein Tha was a granddaughter of Binnya Gyandaw, a minister in the court of King Thalun. He was schooled at the Parama Monastery in the capital Ava. Still a teenager, Sa married Ma Aye, daughter of the King's goldsmith Nyun of Sagaing. Sa worked as a goldsmith and dealer. His wife died in 1785, when he was just 19. After the death of his wife, Sa briefly became an itinerant player of kye-waing (brass gongs) in U Tayoke's orchestra in Ava. Sa quickly gained recognition as an accomplished musician, and was noticed by Crown Prince Thado Minsaw who was bringing together a circle of innovative young artists in his private court. Still 19, Sa joined the Royal Service to become a royal page, a kind of apprenticeship only open to members of gentry and nobility.