When Raffi Cavoukian takes to the stage for his two shows at the Royal Theatre on Nov. 19, he anticipates friendly crowds will be facing him.
Raffi expects the audience to be mostly “Beluga grads,” as he calls people who either grew up listening to his music as children or perhaps shared the songs with their own kids as young parents.
“It seems these adults who grew up with the music, they seem to be holding the music in their hearts,” the 69-year-old musician, author and child advocate said from Saltspring Island, his home of the past nine years.
“They’re experiencing the music, hearing it with their inner child, they’re seeing their own children enjoy it. At the concerts there’s this lovefest happening; I’m quite grateful for that.”
Life is good for the veteran entertainer.
He’s got a new compilation album coming out called, not surprisingly, The Best of Raffi; a new Baby Beluga board game – named for his popular children’s album and board book – due out in time for Christmas, and was featured in the Haig-Brown lecture series on Nov. 3 in Campbell River, speaking on Child Honouring and Sustainability: Respecting Earth and Child.
Not only that, he’s enjoying playing some guitars he recently bought from talented Saltspring Island luthier Terry Warbey, in anticipation of recording a new album this month.
These new and upcoming projects show that Raffi is not content to rest on past successes. “Music and music making is very current with me,” he said.
Looking back on his career, he hasn’t been all about children’s music, even if it has been his main focus. Raffi has written songs about Nelson Mandela (“Turn This World Around”) which he sung to the South African leader in 2001, and about the Dalai Lama. He also penned a tune called “Count With Me,” a sendup of Canada’s GDP.
“It’s a fun little ditty about a serious topic,” he said. “As a troubadour, I consider myself a global troubadour … I branch out into writing for adults now and then as the spirit moves me.”
In that vein he remains a social and ecological activist, with the aim of creating a better future for today’s children. He and others have fine-tuned the holistic concept of “child honouring” that Raffi envisioned in 1997 – the child-first philosophy aims to heal communities and restore ecosystems. His Centre for Child Honouring, founded in 2010 on Saltspring, works with various educational groups to teach its nine principles, and an online course on the subject is being developed.
“There are things to be taken seriously, we can do that without taking ourselves too seriously,” he said. “I think what we can do is steward our children in a respectful way to inspire them to be stewards of our planet.”
He has written and performed many songs celebrating the environment and promoting a sense of well-being, in fun and sometimes silly ways that a child can understand. Fans can expect to hear some of those favourites on Nov. 19, from “Baby Beluga,” “Apples and Bananas” and “Bananaphone” to “Love Bug (Where the Hugs Come From),” “Rise and Shine,” and the ballad “Thanks a Lot.”
Tickets are still available for both concerts (1 and 4 p.m.). To purchase, visit rmts.bc.ca, call the Royal and McPherson box office at 250-386-6121 or drop by either theatre for details.