Christopher Ris began his study of sarod and vocal music in 1971 under Maestro Ali Akbar Khan at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California (AACM.org). He has since performed as a soloist, with Ali Akbar’s orchestra, The New Maihar Band, has composed music for 3 films on life in India and for an episode of the television series Young Indiana Jones. He has collaborated with flamenco dancer Rosa Montoya and flamenco guitarist Guillermo Rios, the Toronto Tabla Ensemble and with Necati Celik, the principal oudist of the National Orchestra of Turkey. In 1974 he began a long-lived relationship with the renowned kathak dancer Chitresh Das. In 1981 he became Mr. Das’ primary musical accompanist and composer in residence for both his personal performances and his Chhandam Dance Company. Together they dramatically changed the style of kathak accompaniment, bringing the instrumentalist into the simultaneous improvisations with the dancer that were formerly the province of the tabla drummer alone. He has also collaborated extensively with his wife, kathak dancer Marni Ris both in her solo performances and with her educational performing group Ragas and Sagas.
In 1983 he received the prestigious AIIS (American Institute of Indian Studies) fellowship and spent a year in India studying, performing and archiving recordings of Ali Akbar Khan.
After a four year bout with Lyme disease he is now fully recovered and returning to performing both solo and with the New Maihar Band.
After Ali Akbar Khan’s passing in 2009 he has continued his studies with Rajeev Taranath, one of Ali Akbar’s earliest students who resides in Mysore and comes to the US twice a year to perform and teach.
His love of the sarod and its music has also led him to understanding the mechanics of the instrument; he performs all maintenance and restoration work on both his and his friends’ instruments. He has created a travel sarod with a folding neck and an automated tanpura playing device.