Raffi plays The McPherson May 25. “It’s going to be a wonderful sing along. There will be some banana puns. It’s a show with appeal.”

The Big Personality: Raffi

Children's entertainer and advocate Raffi Cavoukian on honouring the whole child, his new book and latest album for little listeners

Hold the bananaphone!

Better yet, pass it to your kid and take that smartphone away. Raffi Cavoukian, known simply as Raffi, is one of the best-known children’s entertainers in North America for his top selling albums such as ‘94’s Bananaphone and an outspoken advocate for children, who has recently turned his attention to online safety and the proliferation of infotech devices.

“Your children are not born to learn technology,” Raffi says from his Salt Spring Island home. “They’re born to learn the wonders, the textures and the rhythms of the natural world. It’s from that joyful grounding that all other learning will come.”

As a children’s advocate, the 65-year-old says it’s virtually impossible to enjoy the benefits of the Internet – what he considers the “lightweb” – without grave concern for its dark, predatory underbelly, or “darkweb.” Earlier this year, he released Lightweb Darkweb, a call to action for social media providers, parents and the greater society, to reform social media, provide a safer environment for its young users and take into consideration their developmental needs.

It’s a weighty issue for Raffi, one co-existing top-of-mind with but another collection of merry tunes currently in production. This summer he will release his first record in 12 years.

“Given that infotech devices are everywhere – for the first time they’re in children’s lives in a big way – I wanted to make some kind of a statement with this music. You might say that this album is in full celebration of the real world.”

Love Bug will let his fans get to know him all over again, Raffi says, with a shout out to those he has dubbed his “Beluga grads.” It’s a moniker endearingly given to those who listened to his anthemic ode to the endangered species on 1980’s Baby Beluga and are now enrolling the next generation in the timeless school of Raffi.

And that’s exactly where Raffi’s “accidental career” as a children’s entertainer began, as a folk-singer in his mother-in-law’s preschool classroom, where he first sang for her students and opened the door to an unexpected world.

“The initial experience of singing with kids on a rug on the floor of a nursery school was quite charming, apparently for both me, the kids and their teachers and it led to more. Along the way my desire to understand kids grew. As I was helped to see children as people worthy of respect, that was the key for the rest of my music to unfold. That feeling has never left me, the feeling of respect for the child as a whole person and it has guided my entire career and the decisions that I’ve made.”

Passing on any project marketed to kids, and defending the environment along the way, the Egyptian immigrant’s ethics eventually led him to develop child honouring. The philosophy of nine principles aimed at putting children first to heal communities – including diversity, this also guides his work at The Centre for Child Honouring, a charitable organization on Salt Spring.

“The success that I’ve had in my career offers me opportunities – a platform from which to keep spreading a message of joy and that the child embodies joy, is an inspiration to all of us. The young of every culture are the same biological creatures. If you have a newborn baby – whether that’s an Irish baby, or an East Indian baby, or an Eritrean baby – that’s the same heart-beating, beautiful, vulnerable, intelligent biological creature the world over. That universality of the human condition is best seen in the young child.”

 

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