Raffi has been a childhood staple since the ’70s, thanks to the singer/songwriter’s jaunty, imaginative, sing-along numbers. Born to Armenian parents in Cairo, Egypt, in 1948 and raised primarily in Toronto, Raffi Cavoukian originally eyed a career as a folk singer, playing small venues across Canada. But in 1976, he pivoted to writing for children, starting with Singable Songs for the Very Young. Raffi crafted midtempo cuts using just acoustic guitar and his voice, turning traditional songs such as “Down By the Bay'' into musical playgrounds that he hoped might prompt his young listeners to construct their own rhymes. As his reputation grew, he crafted more original tunes supplemented by bells and horns, such as his definitive ode to a whale, 1980’s “Baby Beluga.” Raffi’s work treats his audience with respect while inviting them to be more playful, like on the springy “Shake My Sillies Out” or the ridiculously joyful “Bananaphone.” Raffi has also used his art to raise awareness about environmental issues like climate change and the needs of children. His vision of "Child Honouring," which he introduced in his provocative 2006 anthology book, Child Honouring: How to Turn This World Around, calls for an end to such systems as “factory schooling” and the commercial exploitation of children through advertising and marketing. Raffi remains one of the most popular children's artists in the world—collaborating with big names like Yo-Yo Ma—as his work is passed down to new generations by the parents who were themselves raised on his music.
BORNJuly 8, 1948