Riley Lee began studying shakuhachi in Japan in 1971. In 1980, he became the first non-Japanese dai shihan (大師範; literally ‘big teacher,’ usually translated ‘grand master’). He was also the first non-Japanese to play wadaiko (和太鼓; Japanese drums) professionally (1974). Ian Cleworth and Riley co-founded Taikoz in 1997.
Riley moved from Hawai’i to Sydney in 1986 with Patricia and their twin daughters. Riley’s PhD in ethnomusicology is from Sydney University. He has 60+ recordings; his first (1980) is still available on Smithsonian-Folkways.
In 2016, Riley taught at Princeton University, and performed in six states in USA, in Canada, Switzerland, and throughout Australia.
His year ends in India, touring for three weeks with Taikoz and Sydney-based dance troupe Lingalayum.