Music Legend Raffi Sings to a New Generation of Fans
Millions who listened Raffi in their youth are now young adults who remember the singer-songwriter’s music as the backdrop of their childhood. Many of these #BelugaGrads, as the 70-year-old icon lovingly calls his fanbase, now have children of their own. The child entertainer and advocate is currently on tour, introducing a new generation to his playful, singable favorites like “Baby Beluga,” as well as songs from his new album -- his 25th, called Dog on the Floor. We caught up with the beloved performer ahead of his tour stop in the Bay State next month. Raffi will be performing two shows at The Hanover Theatre in Worcester on June 1.
You’ve been singing for children for over four decades. Was it always your intention to have a career entertaining little ones, or did it happen by chance?
I’ve been asked this so often, I published an autobiography, “The Life Of A Children’s Troubadour,” to tell my story. A struggling folksinger, I got my start in entertaining children in a nursery school on a rug on the floor with a dozen young kids and three teachers. That first session went well and I was asked to return. In 1976 I recorded a kids’ album, Singable Songs For The Very Young. Its instant popularity and that of its successor More Singable Songs opened up a whole new career in singing for children and families. Now in my fifth decade of this work, I’m very fortunate to still be doing it.
You’ve never advertised to children or made any commercial endorsements. Why is that so important to you?
It is simply unethical to exploit innocence, that’s why I’ve never allowed my music to be marketed to kids directly. Respect for children has been the core value throughout my career. Our young possess a dignity all their own, worthy of respect. As for not doing endorsements, I’ve wanted my name and my music to be about the music I share, not some commercial product to sell an impressionable audience.
What’s still on your Bucket List – musically, or just in general?
I want to stay healthy and make good music. My deepest desire is to be of service to the greatest good. The online course in Child Honouring, just launched by the Raffi Foundation, is an important way that I can be of service to my fans and to the world. I encourage your readers to visit raffifoundation.org and have a look at this course offering.
What’s it like to perform for multiple generations? There must be something special about connecting parents and their children through music?
It’s a thrill to hear families singing together, and to hear older voices mixed in among the young. I love the participation of the audience that has come to play with the music they love. I love the singalong and hearing voices belting out “Baby Beluga,” and the laughter when I sing something funny.
What should one expect at a Raffi concert?
A whole lot of love! And, a really fun sing-along.
How has childhood – or children – changed since you started singing to kids in the '70s?
Young children’s needs are universal. That’s why the mission of my foundation is to advance Child Honouring as a universal ethic.
Tell us about “Dog on the Floor.” Is it something that your fans from the very beginning will find familiar? Or has your musical style evolved over the years?
My songs are inspired by real life events, and when I acquired a lovable puppy, it did inspire this “Dog” album. It’s fair to say that the music evolves as I personally evolve.
You started a non-profit, the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring, with the motto “respecting earth and child.” Can you explain a bit about that mission?
Child Honouring is an integrated vision that connects person, culture and planet in a unique way, with the Child at its heart.