#RespectYourElders, Raffi Cavoukian, 70, is a singer and guitarist best known for his popular children’s music. Raffi is also an author, advocate, entrepreneur and founder of the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring.
Raffi was born in Cairo, Egypt to Armenian parents. They immigrated to Canada during his childhood and lived in Toronto, Ontario. In high school, Raffi discovered an interest in playing the guitar and performed alongside aspiring folk musicians including David Wilcox and John Lacey.
Raffi’s career as a child entertainer began when he was asked to perform at the Mariposa Folk Festival’s school program. Strapped with an acoustic guitar and a soothing voice, he played in classrooms for children. People around Raffi began to recognize his gift. Raffi’s mother-in-law suggested he record an album for young children because, as she said, there was a gap in that genre of music.
His first album, “Singable Songs For the Very Young,” debuted in 1976. The album was a hit and many more followed. But children’s music wasn’t the only thing Raffi was passionate about.
Raffi attended a presentation at the Ontario Science Centre in 1988 that opened his eyes to the declining population of beluga whales. He began advocating for the animals and the environment through his music, and created one of his most popular songs: “Baby Beluga.” In 1992 he received the United Nations Environmental Achievement Award.
His advocacy work continued with the founding of the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring — a nonprofit dedicated to social change with a child-first approach to global restoration. Child Honouring partners with regional, national and international organizations to advance the nonprofit’s nine principles promoting children’s wellbeing.
Child Honouring is as much a nonprofit as it is Raffi’s philosophy on how to change the world. His book “Child Honouring: How to Turn This World Around,” explores many of today’s societal problems that he believes can be solved by first uplifting and supporting children.
“I learned that a young child is a whole person, as whole at an early stage of life as an adult is whole at a later stage. This means that children are not lesser beings; they are simply at an early stage of life, the all-important formative stage.” Raffi said in an interview.
Over the course of his career, he’s sold about 15 million albums and DVDs of his children’s and environmental advocacy music in Canada and the United States. At 70, Raffi is still putting out new music, but this time for adults. He recently released “Motivational Songs,” an album featuring themes of diversity, social justice and civic engagement.
“I create songs out of love as I always have, and that doesn’t change,” Raffi said in an interview. “I may be recording them differently with digital technology and so on. But it’s love that I sing with for my audience — love of life.”