The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory’s Lisa Condit spoke with children’s entertainer and advocate Raffi before his June 1 concerts. Read on for highlights from the interview and be sure to tune in to WCRN 830AM Radio on Saturdays at 1 pm for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: According to the Washington Post, you’re the most popular children’s singer in the English speaking world. That is a serious accomplishment!
Raffi: Being a children’s troubadour is a delightful thing because you get to make music in different styles that you serve up joyfully, and you have an audience that loves to sing these songs and fills the room with love. How lucky am I to be doing this now in my fifth decade?
Lisa: I remember singing along to your songs with my daughter (who is 20!) every time we got in the car. How have you seen things change in your fifth decade?
Raffi: I’m often asked if children have changed. Children’s needs are irreducible and universal, and they don’t change over time. Children have a need, an entitlement to love, to respect. Respect has been the core value throughout my career. Children need to be respected for who they feel they are. That doesn’t change. They need nurture, nourishment, protection, shelter. Universal things.
What does change is the world around them. We now live in the digital era, which is a very different world than, say, 20 years ago when a child would have had the chance to get to know the rhythms of a slow summer. Now, that is crowded by the light speed of the digital devices. Parents have a harder time today in many ways because they now are parenting in two realms: the real and the virtual. These are challenges.
Lisa: What hasn’t changed is that nothing replaces the live experience of seeing one of your favorite performers on stage. I’m so glad that you’re coming to the theatre so that children can experience you up close, personal and live.
Raffi: It’s a joy to sing live. Young children turn to their parents. Parents gaze over to their children. The whole thing is such a shared joy. Children who are able to clap and sing along find themselves enthralled with the whole experience. You mentioned that you have a daughter. Did she grow up with my music?
Raffi: I call her a “Beluga Grad.” She grew up with “Baby Beluga” and all these songs. There are an estimated 20-50 million beluga grads in Canada and the U.S. In the concert hall, most of the audience are Beluga Grads. They’re sharing the songs with their young, the songs that they themselves loved as children.
Lisa: What can our audiences expect?
Raffi: We’ll be singing a lot of favorites like “Bananaphone,” “Down by the Bay” and, of course, “Baby Beluga.” I have many surprises during the show, some bad jokes and lots of audience participation, from start to finish.
Lisa: With every advance ticket purchase, there is a free digital download or CD. It’s a great way to connect before the show.
Raffi: Proceeds benefit my Foundation, called The Raffi Foundation for Child Honoring.
Lisa: The motto, “respecting earth and child,” is at the heart of your foundation. What does that mean?
Raffi: Child honoring is an integrated vision for building our communities and restoring our earth and ecosystems. It came to me in a vision in 1997. I came to write a covenant for honoring children. Three paragraphs about our duty to the young. It begins with a line inspired by the Declaration of Independence. It says, “We find these joys to be self-evident. That all children are created whole. Endowed with inate intelligence. With dignity and wonder, worthy of respect.”
From those three paragraphs flow nine principles for conscious living. Principles like respectful love, diversity, conscious parenting, emotional intelligence, non-violence and so on. The Raffi Foundation has just launched the first-ever online course in child honoring. It’s for parents, educators, policy makers. It’s an inter-disciplinary course. It’s multi-media. There are videos and music and reading materials. We’re getting wonderful feedback.
Lisa: It’s a great way to extend the experience, before the show and after the show, with the materials that you’ve made available.
Raffi: As I like to say to my fans, “Keep shining your light. Keep singing. Make joy.”