One of the world’s foremost artists of “music for young people” for more than four decades, Raffi is still enamored with making music for children. When he speaks about children’s curiosity and humor, his voice is filled with joy.
The celebrated artist will be in Sacramento on Nov. 24 for two shows at the Crest Theater. He’s been performing for children since the late 1970s, and is still touring — his latest shows are scheduled for this fall and early 2019.
So what about this genre kept Raffi making music for more than 40 years?
“I came to understand that music for children is a wonderful, fun activity,” Raffi said. “You learn about the world inside and the world outside. It’s just so much fun ... once I learned it was quite an important thing, I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to it.”
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Raffi uses an affectionate term to refer to those who grew up listening to his music: beluga grads. The nickname is a reference to his popular song, “Baby Beluga.”
His upcoming shows are tailored to beluga grads who now have kids of their own and want to experience Raffi together.
When he’s not performing, Raffi said he spends a lot of his time with his dog, Luna, whom he featured on the cover of his latest album, Dog on The Floor. He also plays piano “for the love of it,” has guitar jam sessions, and writes new music. Most of his free time is dedicated to his foundation, the Center for Child Honouring.
Raffi said the idea of child honoring came to him in 1997. It’s a philosophy that encourages respect for children and the environment, a plan for sustainability that puts children first.
“How society treats and regards the very young, the primary learners of society, that’s the key to creating peaceful and sustainable societies,” Raffi said. “We can’t leave it to chance.”
Raffi edited a book on the child-honoring philosophy in 2006. The foreword was written by the Dalai Lama.
The nine principles of child honoring include ethical commerce, emotional intelligence, conscious parenting, respectful love, diversity and more. Following these principles, Raffi says, can give children better lives and improve the entire planet. His foundation is dedicated to the spread of this philosophy.
Besides following his philosophy, one of the most important things parents can do for their young children is keep them away from technology, Raffi said.
“Kids need to get to learn the rhythm of the seasons, experience the long summer, be imprinted with the wonders of the three-dimensional world,” Raffi said.
“If you want your children to grow up smart, focused and resourceful, give them their early years without devices.”
He also lamented children’s dependency on social media, and said kids don’t need it.
“What they need is everything else in the real world,” Raffi said. “Real social interactions, face-to-face. Emotional cues in a conversation. These things are not learned online.”
Raffi said he has never believed in marketing to children, and called it unethical.
“They’re not old enough to understand what they’re being pitched,” he said. “If you respect young children — if you respect anyone — you don’t exploit them.”
He turned down a movie deal, TV shows and commercial endorsements after learning they would be directly marketed at children, according to his website.
Despite the lack of marketing, Raffi still became a superstar of children’s music, and his “beluga grads” are now experiencing his music anew with their own children.
After all, “Baby Beluga” is timeless.
If you go
Raffi will performing at the Crest Theater in Sacramento on November 24, 2018, at 1 p.m. and again at 4 p.m. Tickets are available on Ticketfly.