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Raffi still looks through kid's eyes

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Raffi, who is coming to Kelowna on Saturday, not only entertains children, but works for the well-being of them as well.
Special to eVent

Raffi's concerts are full of adults who sang his songs as children and who are now singing them with their own kids.
He calls these adults, "Belugagrads - it's a term of endearment."
"They grew up on Raffi Cavoukian's signature song, Baby Beluga, and they still love it, even though Kavna, the baby whale behind the song, has long since passed away.
"I met her in 1979, and I still love the song Baby Beluga. She lived a very long life and I celebrate Kavna as being the whale that inspired the song."
Referring to the response of his Belugagrad audiences today, he said, "It's kind of sweet. It's full of lovely emotion, nostalgia."
Raffi was once called "the most popular children's singer in the English-speaking world" (Washington Post) and "Canada's all-time children's champion" (Toronto Star), but his work with children and those who love them goes way beyond song-making today. From singing for kids, his career morphed into being a global advocate for children.
"It was a career that found me," he explained. "I was trying to be a folk singer and that didn't work very well. So I started out in a nursery school and graduated to public libraries and eventually the concert stage."
Working with predominantly child-sized audiences is not difficult, he said.
"It's not tough at all. I know they love to sing and they usually come with parents. The kid energy is grounded in parent energy."
After a long career and a swirl of children's smiles to fuel him, Raffi took a decade off from the concert stage and worked on founding the Centre of Child Honouring, which came into being in 2010 on Salt Spring Island.
He spent 10 years holding conferences, giving keynote addresses, and honing the work. He came up with nine principles to give people a compass in relating to children, which includes respectful love and safe environments.
"There's a connection with how we treat the very young with our sustainability goals," he explained. "To be sustainable, a society needs to be connected with children."
The Centre of Child Honouring uses the motto, "Respecting Earth and Child," and links taking care of the Earth with taking care of the youngest generation and those to follow, who will need a healthy Earth on which to survive.
Another plank of Raffi's work is his concern with how the digital age is affecting children. He's published a new adult book called Lightweb Darkweb, about what he sees as a critical need to reform social media, especially for young users. He co-founded the Red Hood Project, a movement for consumer protection for children online.
Raffi explains it in a nutshell: "In this digital era, we are now facing a technology that easily overpowers the active element in a child's mind and body."
He stressed that as we celebrate all we love about children, it is our duty to keep the early years information-technology-free.
"Information technology isn't for the very young. It can wait. These devices should not be used as child-minders. The child who is grounded in the wonders of the real world is the one who can go ahead," said Raffi.
With the groundwork laid for his Centre for Child Honouring, Raffi is back on the stage, singing with kids. 
"I thought, let's see if I've still got it."
He has no intention of retiring anytime soon as long as children continue to inspire him.
What is it about children he finds inspirational?
"Children are the embodiment of joy. They seek meaning in life and they do it in wonder-filled ways."
Raffi recognizes several music giants, such as Pete Seeger, who shows him, "When you are engaged in life and doing what you feel you are meant to do, you can remain active and wonder-filled in your senior years."
Besides that, he's having so much fun. His personal favourite song is Bananaphone.
He's just released through Universal Music Canada a collection of
15 playful food songs. It includes Bananaphone, as well as classics, Peanut Butter Sandwich and Going On A Picnic, and traditional tunes such as Down By The Bay and Day O.
His original album, Singable Songs for the Very Young, is still a best-seller.

QUICKFACTS
What: Raffi Belugagrads Concert
When: Saturday, Jan. 18, at 2 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St.
Tickets: $27.50, $37.50 and $65, available at ticketmaster.ca or call 1-855-985-5000 or in person at Ticketmaster outlets. The $65 tickets include meeting Raffi in person after the show. Proceeds benefit the Centre for Child Honouring.

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